Listen to a sample of the AROMA Audio Challenge in the player by clicking the Play button.
Now there was one, Anna, a prophetess, the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Asher. She was of a great age, and had lived with a husband seven years from her virginity; and this woman was a widow of about eighty-four years, who did not depart from the temple, but served God with fastings and prayers night and day. And coming in that instant she gave thanks to the Lord, and spoke of Him to all those who looked for redemption in Jerusalem. So when they had performed all things according to the law of the Lord, they returned to Galilee, to their own city, Nazareth. And the Child grew and became strong in spirit, filled with wisdom; and the grace of God was upon Him.
Luke 2:36-40 NKJV
Anna was a devoted servant of God. Widowed early in life, Anna dedicated herself to fasting and praying in the temple. When Jesus was bought into the temple, her life of piety was interrupted. No longer were her religious actions on hope of the long-awaited Messiah. The Messiah was there, in the flesh, in the temple with her! Her hope was rewarded. God was praised. The presence of the Messiah was met with her gratitude to God. Like other true believers, she could not be silent about her Savior. The Good news had to be shared!
Throughout the Bible, women had a role in proclaiming the truth of God. God chose in the biblical narrative, to mention women as well as men who went in boldness to tell others about God and speak his word to others. These women are sometimes called “prophetesses”, a female version of a prophet.
Why is Luke including Anna here in his Gospel? Because his major theme is that God sent Jesus to earth that ALL might be saved.(Luke 2:10) In a culture that generally did not hold women in high regard, Luke wanted to show that God is different. He wants to be sure that the reader understands that women as well as men will be part of the Kingdom of God. In fact, Luke’s Gospel tells us more about women than any others. Later in the book of Acts, also written by Luke, we learn of other women who prophesy. (Acts 2:19)
Anna was a mighty woman of God. She was a watchful woman and used the spiritual disciplines of fasting and praying to keep her mind and heart focused on God. As a long-term widow, Anna could have wallowed in self-pity. But she did not. Instead, she devoted herself to pleasing God and waiting for him to fulfill his promises. Anna was a woman of faith and God rewarded her with the greatest gift of all.
Luke wants us to know that in the birth of Jesus, God is fulfilling his covenant promises of the Old Testament. This fills Anna with gratitude and joy so much that she must share the Good News with others.
In the midst of all your activities this Christmas season, find time to tell others about Jesus.
And coming in that instant she gave thanks to the Lord, and spoke of Him to all those who looked for redemption in Jerusalem. Luke 2:38
Lord, Help me to spread the Good News about Jesus this Christmas season. Amen.
Jesus is Born in Bethlehem
“So it was, that while they were there, the days were completed for her to be delivered. And she brought forth her firstborn Son, and wrapped Him in swaddling cloths, and laid Him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn. Now there were in the same country shepherds living out in the fields, keeping watch over their flock by night. And behold, an angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were greatly afraid. Then the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid, for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy which will be to all people.”Luke 2:6–10, NKJV
An Arrival with Startling Humility
A back room with the animals. A rough feeding trough fit for animals. Simple cloths to protect a new life. This is how the Savior of all, the King of Kings, made his grand entrance into the world.
“And it came to pass in those days that a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be registered. This census first took place while Quirinius was governing Syria. So all went to be registered, everyone to his own city. Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and lineage of David, to be registered with Mary, his betrothed wife, who was with child.” (Luke 2:1–5, NKJV)
Another Prophecy Fulfilled
In the earlier part of Luke’s narrative, we learn that Mary, mother-to-be of Jesus, lives in Nazareth, about 100 miles north of Bethlehem, prophesied to be the birthplace of the Messiah. How will this happen? God’s got this. He uses the secular rulers to bring his prophesy to pass. The Roman ruler, Caesar Augustus, declared that all the world under his jurisdiction should be registered.
That we should be saved from our enemies And from the hand of all who hate us, To perform the mercy promised to our fathers And to remember His holy covenant, The oath which He swore to our father Abraham: To grant us that we, Being delivered from the hand of our enemies, Might serve Him without fear, In holiness and righteousness before Him all the days of our life.
Luke 1:71-75 NKJV
Victory in Jesus
Jesus came into the world to conquer sin and death that we too would find victory over that which keeps us from God. Greater is he who is in us than he who is in the world. We recognize that our primary adversary is Satan. He stands against us as an accuser and opposes everything that Jesus stands for. Satan comes to kill, steal and destroy but Jesus came that we might have life and have it more abundantly.
Jesus is the fulfillment of the promises of God. All the promises of God are Yes and Amen in Jesus (2 Corinthians 1:20). God promised that through a descendant of Abraham all the world would be saved.
“I will bless those who bless you, And I will curse him who curses you; And in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.”” Genesis 12:3, NKJV
“And I will establish My covenant between Me and you and your descendants after you in their generations, for an everlasting covenant, to be God to you and your descendants after you.” Genesis 17:7, NKJV
Saved to Serve
Jesus saves so that we can serve. We are set free from sin, death and shame so that we can freely serve God and man. Perfect love, God’s love, casts out fear so we are free to live righteous despite risk. Yes, we may be misunderstood, hated and persecuted but if we live in holiness, we need not fear. We will be able to walk in holiness all of our lives and “dwell in the house of the Lord forever” Psalm 23:6.
To grant us that we, Being delivered from the hand of our enemies, Might serve Him without fear, In holiness and righteousness before Him all the days of our life.
Luke 1:74-75 NKJV
Thank you, Lord for freeing us from the bondage of sin and death and the accompanying fear. Help us to boldly serve you all the days of our lives. May we seek you as we desire to live in holiness and righteousness. Guide us today and every day for the rest of our lives. Amen.
“Now his father Zacharias was filled with the Holy Spirit, and prophesied, saying: “Blessed is the Lord God of Israel, For He has visited and redeemed His people, And has raised up a horn of salvation for us In the house of His servant David, As He spoke by the mouth of His holy prophets, Who have been since the world began,”Luke 1:67–70, NKJV
We see again a strong theme of Luke, that of the power and work of the Holy Spirit in God’s people. Through the Holy Spirit, Zacharias speaks here of Jesus, the son of Mary, not his son John. The Holy Spirit showed the elderly father the promise of Jesus, the long-awaited Messiah, another theme in Luke as he seeks to make his readers certain of what they have learned. Zacharias learned firsthand of the holiness of God through the miraculous birth of his son. Now, he will proclaim this truth to all the congregation.
So begins an exuberant praise song of Zacharias, the first words he is able to utter since being struck mute at his meeting with the Angel Gabriel at the altar. This prophetic song is known by its Latin name which is derived from the first word, Benedictus, which means “Blessed be”. The Benedictus is one of three songs found in the beginning of Luke. The other two are Mary’s Magnificat and Simeon’s song. All three are prophetic revelations encased in praise.
In this case, we imagine a man who for 9 months or more has been unable to speak one word because of his doubt of Gabriel’s proclamation that Elizabeth would have a baby at her advanced age. Now the baby, John the Baptist, is here and Zacharias obeyed God in naming the baby John. His ability to speak comes back and with it a praise-filled prophecy tumbles forth out of his long silent mouth.
He blesses God for:
- Visiting his people
- Redeeming his people
- Raising up a salvation from the house of David
- Fulfilling the word of the prophets of old
““Blessed is the Lord God of Israel, For He has visited and redeemed His people,” (Luke 1:68, NKJV)
The godly priest realizes that God has begun the work of coming among and redeeming his people. Jesus is to be born as a baby and called Immanuel, God With Us. Redemption is coming through Jesus Christ our Lord and Savior! He was born as a humble baby, died as a suffering servant and rose as a victor!
Lord, We praise you and we thank you for sending your Son Jesus to live among us and redeem us. Through him came the salvation of the whole world and there can be no better gift! Help us to proclaim this joyous news to others especially during this Christmas season. Amen.
“Now Elizabeth’s full time came for her to be delivered, and she brought forth a son. When her neighbors and relatives heard how the Lord had shown great mercy to her, they rejoiced with her. So it was, on the eighth day, that they came to circumcise the child; and they would have called him by the name of his father, Zacharias. His mother answered and said, “No; he shall be called John.””(Luke 1:57–60, NKJV)
God’s Mercy and Faithfulness
God’s promise as given through the angel Gabriel is fulfilled in our first verse today showing God’s faithfulness. God used this miracle birth to strengthen the faith of the others in Elizabeth’s life. Once they heard of the childless, older woman giving birth, they knew that God’s miracle was the cause. God’s miracles are a sign of his mercy. Using the same word for “magnify” Mary used in the Magnificat, this verse tells us the Lord magnified his mercy to Elizabeth. An always merciful God showed great grace and mercy to Elizabeth.
Rejoice With One Another
The miracle of the birth of John caused those around her to come and rejoice with Elizabeth. Similarly, once we focus on on God’s great mercy to us, especially in sending Jesus to die for our sins, we feel like rejoicing. Such unmerited favor shown to us by the Creator of all the world is cause for joy! What a privilege to rejoice with other believers as we testify about what the Lord has done for us. This is not a private event to be hidden from Elizabeth’s community but a time of proclaiming the mercy of God and celebrating a renewal of faith as all celebrate the blessing being given to one.
A Public Life
John will spend much of his life in public ministry. His life will not be his own but will be dedicated to the service of the Lord. The beginning of his life reflects this truth. Friends and relatives are gathered together for the beginning of John’s life, a life that points to our Savior Jesus. Elizabeth’s joy goes beyond her happiness at having a longed-for child late in life. She rejoices because God is going to fulfill his promises to Israel for a Savior and a King soon.
What’s in a Name?
Much is made of the naming of John in this passage. In the Old Testament, naming was a significant rite with religious significance. Names given by God were recognized as a special gift and especially meaningful. God gave new names as a sign of his new work in someone’s heart and life. In the New Testament, God gives us names as followers of Jesus Christ. We are overcomers, a chosen people, a royal priesthood, sons of God and a new creation in Christ among others. Remembering God’s names for us helps us to live in our true identity in Christ and reject names that God does not have for us.
When her neighbors and relatives heard how the Lord had shown great mercy to her, they rejoiced with her. Luke 1:58 (NKJV)
Lord, Thank you for your faithfulness and promises fulfilled! You are still a mighty, miracle-working God and we praise you and give you honor and glory. Thank you for the miracle you did for Elizabeth that showed your great mercy to her just as you showed great mercy to us by sending Jesus to die for the forgiveness of our sins. Continue to grow us in the grace and knowledge of your Word. Amen.
He has shown strength with His arm; He has scattered the proud in the imagination of their hearts. He has put down the mighty from their thrones, And exalted the lowly. He has filled the hungry with good things, And the rich He has sent away empty. He has helped His servant Israel, In remembrance of His mercy, As He spoke to our fathers, To Abraham and to his seed forever.” And Mary remained with her about three months, and returned to her house.Luke 1:51-56 (NKJV)
Humility Relies on God’s Strength
Mary prophetically declares the teachings of her son, Jesus. Those who follow him are to be servants, not lords. Jesus warned his followers not to seek the best seats at a feast or desire public honor for religious duties. New Testament writers emphasized these teachings of their Master, Jesus. Echoing Mary, they write that if we humble ourselves before God, he will lift us up. James 4:10, 1 Peter 5:5-6
God’s Kingdom is Not What We Expect
In our world, the rich and mighty are strong and rule. The lowly are ruled over and live in want. God rules his Kingdom differently. The rich are scattered, the mighty are cast down. God fills the hungry Psalm 107:9 and lifts the low into high places Matthew 23:12. He helps those who serve him. God opposes the proud and gives grace to the humble James 4:6. Jesus, King of Kings and Lord of Lords, Savior of the whole world, will be born to a peasant girl in the country among the animals. Nothing will be ever be the same.
God’s Promises Remembered, Soon to be Fulfilled
Mary knows God’s Word so she knows the story of Abraham and his covenant with God. God promised salvation to the world through Abraham and his seed, Israel. These promises are to be fulfilled in Jesus. It is because of God’s great mercy that he helps his people. Mary sings with gratitude for God’s remembrance of her and all of Israel. When Mary looked around at her earthly life, oppression under harsh Roman rule, a subsistence farming life that barely provided for her needs and was subject to times of lack, things did not look good. It was easy to think that God had forgotten Israel and his promises to them. But Mary knew differently. In faith, she believed what the angel told her. Incredible, yes. Impossible, no. Mary trusted that God was about to do a new thing. She joyfully sang and praised the Lord for what he was soon to do.
God’s Strength and Mercy
Mary continues with her theme of God’s strength and limitless power. She recognizes God as the ruler of all. She also speaks of God being merciful, helping those who serve him. The two traits come together in our mighty yet loving Father. He is strong enough to strike down enemies yet loves enough to rescue those who humble themselves before him.
He has helped His servant Israel, In remembrance of His mercy.
Lord, Thank you for your mercy to us. We do not deserve all that you do for us except that we live by faith in Jesus. Thank you for giving us the righteousness of Christ and recognizing his sacrifice on our behalf. Because of Jesus, we are saved! Help us to humble ourselves and resist pride as we rely on you to lift us up. Give us a heart to praise and worship you with our eyes to heaven, not on our circumstances. Amen.
And Mary said: “My soul magnifies the Lord, And my spirit has rejoiced in God my Savior. For He has regarded the lowly state of His maidservant; For behold, henceforth all generations will call me blessed. For He who is mighty has done great things for me, And holy is His name. And His mercy is on those who fear Him From generation to generation.Luke 1:46-50 (NKJV)
Waves of Worship
Mary exalted God, worshipped him by seeing him on high, with ways above hers. Praise and worship of God leads to joy in knowing God as Savior. Yes, it is exciting to understand that God is not only a great, high God but that he loves us so much that he is our personal rescuer.
Through the March of Time
The theme of generations is seen twice in this short section. God is so big that all he does has big, generational consequences. Mary states, rightfully, that all generations will call her blessed. She reminds us of God’s multigenerational faithfulness and mercy to those who fear him (see also Exodus 20:6, Psalm 103:17-18, Exodus 34:6-7).
Descriptors of God
The Arrange Visual Verse Analysis of The AROMA Approach to Bible Study helped me to see all the ways Mary described God and herself in this passage. Mary’s proclamation of who God is echoes the Old Testament.
- One who regarded her and acted on her behalf
- One who did great things for her
Mary describes herself in terms of how God sees her and deals with her much as we should find our identity in Christ.
- Filled with praise
- Overcome with joy
- Recipient of God’s great work on her behalf
Mary exalted God and proclaimed how his power radically changed her life. God took her, a nobody from no place memorable with no great future, and made her into a somebody, remembered for all generations to come. Mary recognized God did that for her just as Elizabeth acknowledged it was God who took away her reproach. Praise, joy, humility and reverence combine in a stunning declaration in this beautiful praise song by a young girl whose life would never be the same.
In the Read Engagement Point of the AROMA Approach, the R, one of the recommended mindsets for reading a passage is devotional. Focus on the devotional reading of this passage today. As you read, take time to praise the Lord for all he has done for you.
For He who is mighty has done great things for me,
And holy is His name. Luke 1:49
Mary has a fresh revelation of who God is, his power and holiness, because of what he did for her. Take a few moments to think about only one of the great things God has done for you. Praise and thank him for being mighty and holy and acting in your life.
Lord, We thank you for your goodness to to us. You have truly done great things for us. You are holy, your name is holy and you are deserving of all the praise. We praise you Lord and give you all the glory! Thank you for your kindness and mercy towards us. We love you, Lord. Amen.