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Questions for Reflection and Discussion – Luke 1 26-38 and 2 21-35

Luke 1:26-38 and Luke 2:21-35 are our texts for Sunday, December 23. Here are a few questions that we might want to consider before or in class:

Luke 1:26-38 is a miracle text; the virgin birth is one of the five fundamentals of 1920s American Protestant fundamentalism. What in this text seems most important for our own faith (e.g., that the gospel names Mary, that Mary is a virgin, that the angel Gabriel communicates with her directly, that Jesus has a human mother … ) Why do we say that? What does it say about our faith, that we identify this as important? How does our faith differ from a faith that accepts more, or less, or something else, of this story? What makes us say that?

If we think about Mary’s human experience of meeting and talking with the angel Gabriel – what do we imagine that experience was? Would we want to have this experience ourselves? Why, or why not? What other characters in scripture meet angels? (e.g., Hagar, Abraham and Sarah, Daniel … ) What does this suggest to us about Mary, or about this event?

Everyone in this story has a name; no one is an anonymous or generic individual, but a particular individual. What difference does this make in the way we read this text? Is it important? How?

In what way, or ways, are we, ourselves, like Mary? In what way or ways are we unlike her? Should we be more like her? In what way or ways? Why? What would need to change, in in us, for that to happen?

Luke 2:21-35 presents a human drama involving Simeon, Jesus, and Jesus’ parents. What do we imagine was Simeon’s experience of this event? Joseph’s? Mary’s? Jesus’? With whom do we identify in this story? Why is that, do we think? How does that identification feel? What does that tell us about this story? About us?

By this point in Luke’s gospel, Mary has had four recorded announcements about Jesus: from Gabriel (1:26-38), Elizabeth (1:42-45), the shepherds (2:17-18), and now Simeon. In this context, what seems to be most amazing about Simeon’s announcement? How is it similar to, and different from, the others?

How do we think these experiences would affect us as parents?

For Simeon, seeing the infant Jesus fulfills a divine promise. What divine promises do we take seriously or count on? What do we think their fulfillment will look like?

In what way or ways are we, ourselves, like Simeon? Unlike Simeon? Should we be more like Simeon? In what way, or ways? Why? What would have to change in us for that to happen?

Overall, we may want to consider the way God makes promises to humans like us (e.g., directly, as with Abraham; through angels, as with Hagar, or prophets, like Isaiah; through scripture; …), how we ourselves relate to those promises, and how the stories of past fulfillments of promises influence the way we relate to God’s promises.

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