During the Christmas season, we celebrate the arrival of Christ, but many times we feel like he isn’t really here… We feel like God has abandoned us and left us alone for some reason. Why is that? And how can we rediscover the power and the presence of God in our lives?
Lifegroup discussion questions are below!
Thank you, Lynsie McDaniel for writing this week’s discussion questions! If you’re the leader of your group discussion, have the rest of your group open this page on their mobile device, and read through the questions together.
This week was week 2 of the First Christmas series. Last week was about the shepards, this week was about Elizabeth.Luke uses the word barren to describe Elizabeth. A sad and dark word, that for many bring up sad and very hard times presently or in the past. This was a sad and dark time in Elizabeth and Zachariah’s lives and a quiet hard time of silence in the nation of Isreal. They once had hope of a deliverer, but holding on to hope for 400 years is a long hard road. These people probably had some questions for God, right? “Did you forget about us?” “Do you hate us?” “Have you decided to punish us instead of bless us?” Have you ever asked these questions of God? I often get caught up in the American Dream of an easy and comfortable life, and when something seems hard, I start asking these questions. Can you relate?We have many dreams and hopes around the holidays. We want this time to look and feel joyful and sometimes that leaves us feeling barren. Do the holidays leave, as Steve said, your volume on high to the problems in your life? When you are in a barren place, is it easy to forget the places where God was faithful? Do you forget what God did in His faithfulness a few months ago, a few years ago? How well do you think they remembered after 400 years, generations? It is easy to forget. It was easy for the Isrealites to forget how God provided, in abundance.
Now there was no water for the congregation. And they assembled themselves together against Moses and against Aaron. And the people quarreled with Moses and said, “Would that we had perished when our brothers perished before the Lord ! Why have you brought the assembly of the Lord into this wilderness, that we should die here, both we and our cattle? And why have you made us come up out of Egypt to bring us to this evil place? It is no place for grain or figs or vines or pomegranates, and there is no water to drink.” (Numbers 20:2-5 ESV)
Many years before Elizabeth, the Israelites had a plan, they wanted freedom from slavery, which God provided, but then instead of walking right into a land flowing with milk and honey they were wandering, a long time, without the things they thought they needed. They tell Moses and Aaron “why didn’t we just die in Egypt?” Have you ever been in a barren place where you felt like it was the worst of anyplace you could be? All hope has felt lost? This is a heavy question that, you might not want to talk about aloud in your group, but I’d love for you to think about how we loose hope. Situations can be very very grim, for many grimmer than I have even imagined, but God says in Him there is life abundantly. So what beyond our circumstances causes our “all hope is lost” place? Is it our sin? Is it sins of others? Is it a place where we get too overwhelmed to see God and his faithfulness? Is it that the pain has gotten too strong to see past it?God’s plan for the Israelistes wasn’t a comfy door to walk through from slavery to freedom, it was a plan that taught them, and changed them, so that people would remember years, many years, until it was time for the next part of His plan. Does hearing that God’s plan looks different than your plan bring you to a place of hope and anticipation or a place of fear an anxiety? The steps in His plan can be painful, but the plan ends with God’s desired outcome. His provision. Elizabeth’s plan was to have children when she was young, have worth through the numbers in her family, to fit into her family dreams. But God’s plan was to give her a baby, a baby that had to come on His time because John had an important job to do, to prepare the way for the Messiah.
Now the time came for Elizabeth to give birth, and she bore a son. And her neighbors and relatives heard that the Lord had shown great mercy to her, and they rejoiced with her. And on the eighth day they came to circumcise the child. And they would have called him Zechariah after his father, but his mother answered, “No; he shall be called John.” And they said to her, “None of your relatives is called by this name.” And they made signs to his father, inquiring what he wanted him to be called. And he asked for a writing tablet and wrote, “His name is John.” And they all wondered. And immediately his mouth was opened and his tongue loosed, and he spoke, blessing God. And fear came on all their neighbors. And all these things were talked about through all the hill country of Judea, and all who heard them laid them up in their hearts, saying, “What then will this child be?” For the hand of the Lord was with him. (Luke 1:57-66 ESV)
Look at verse 65. “All these things were talked about through all the hill country of Judea.” Babies were born all the time, but they weren’t talked about all through the hill country. This was before the time where 3,000 of our closest friends see Facebook pictures of the birth within the first 10 minutes. God was brought glory, by word of mouth about this miracle baby, but John came outside of Elizabeth’s plan. We can question His plan, Sarah did by using Haggar, Jonah did by running instead of obeying, Joseph’s personal plan probably wasn’t to be sold by his brothers. But God’s plan was still brought to fruition. Are you a manipulator like Sarah, do you run away like Jonah, have you fallen prey to the sin of others’s like Joseph? Take joy from knowing that God’s plan is so much bigger than any of those things. If time allows, please spend some time as a group to pray for those that are willing to share about a current barren place and also spend time praising God for life flowing out of places that used to be lifeless, but are now flowing with abundance.