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Home Bible Studies and Reflections Bible Study: Lifting up the lowly

Bible Study: Lifting up the lowly

January, 2021

The story of the annunciation of Jesus’ birth is shocking and scandalous. It is little wonder that Mary was disturbed when the angel announced to her that she, a virgin, would fall pregnant.

A grandmother holds her grandson in Lekiji, Kenya. Her daughter-in-law died in childbirth, unable to access medical care in time, so she is the child’s primary carer. Women in the remote savannah community experience high levels of vulnerability, however have seen changes since community education about women’s rights.

BIBLE READING

“He has looked with favour on the lowliness of his servant. Surely, from now on all generations will call me blessed.”
Luke 1:48 (NRSV)

BACKGROUND

The story of the annunciation of Jesus’ birth is shocking and scandalous. It is little wonder that Mary was disturbed when the angel announced to her that she, a virgin, would fall pregnant. Even more astounding was the news that the Son of God would grow in her womb!

Mary was young, unmarried, and living in a conservative and moralistic culture. Imagine the thoughts that would have flooded into her mind. She is engaged to be married, but her betrothed is not the father! How does she tell him?

The community and family that Mary belonged to may have also looked upon her with shame, seeing her as the object of suspicion and scandal. How is she to respond?

Mary knows that God is with her; she is surrounded by love. The angel tells her to not be afraid. What happens to Mary is unimaginable to us, but as the story from Luke’s gospel tells us, nothing is impossible with God.

REFLECTION

The story of Jesus’ birth is contrasted in Luke’s Gospel with that of the birth of his cousin, John the Baptist. Elizabeth, John’s mother, was old and well past child-bearing age. An older woman giving birth to her first child late in life, and a young teenage woman, in a culture where women were often marginalised.

Both women would have felt highly vulnerable. The situation for both these women was very challenging.

The wonder of the Gospel is that it is always the lowly who are the bearers of hope. A young, unmarried teenager is chosen as the one who will bring hope and light into this world.

The idealism of youth is something that many people struggle to hold on to in later years. This is why Mary’s revolutionary song is such a wonderful example to us. She bursts out in a spontaneous song of praise and rejoices in God’s upside-down kingdom, a kingdom where the last shall be first and those who are first will be last.

We have a God who is all loving, who experiences great joy in lifting up the lowly. May we be humble enough to rejoice like Mary in this God who we see in the life of Jesus, who invites those who are weary to come to him and rest. She is secure in the love of God for her. She is held and she is safe.

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS

  • Can you relate to the feelings Mary would have experienced? Has there been a time in your life when you have learnt something really significant and you wondered how you would tell people?
  • How would Mary’s faith in God have helped her as she tried to process these feelings?
  • If you were part of Mary’s family or community, how would you have responded to her incredible news and situation?

IDEA FOR APPLICATION…

Think of some people in your family or community who may have been exposed to shame or judgement. Go and approach them and show them the love of the God who lifts up the lowly. If you are that person who has experienced those kinds of feelings, imagine God lifting you up and rejoicing in you.

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