About the Study
As the Old Testament ended, God’s people longed for the promised King’s arrival and rescue. But the time between the Old and the New Testaments (400 years) was experienced by them as a deafening silence. During this time, God was busy at work, setting the stage for the arrival of this long-awaited King.
And it is with the birth of Jesus that God breaks the silence. At last, God will dwell among men, wrapped in the flesh of humanity. The incarnate one (God made flesh) will be called Jesus – deliverer – rescuer, and He is what God spoke into the silence. He is what God had to say then and what God has to say to each of us now.
We will look at three of the canticles found in the first two chapters of the book of Luke and discover Emanuel (God with us). We will see that His prophesied coming, future returning, and arrival in our everyday lives is our peace, rest, and hope forever.
In this study, our focus will be on the following hymns, also called canticles: “Canticle of Mary” (Luke 1:46-55) known as the Magnificat, “Canticle of Zachary” (Luke 1:68-79) known as the Benedictus, “Canticle of Simeon” (Luke 2:29-32) known as the Nunc dimittis.
Lesson 1 – God Breaks the Silence
“Maybe Christmas doesn’t come from a store,
maybe Christmas perhaps means a little bit more …”
– Dr. Seuss –
The time between testaments was a period of deep longing for the people of God. They were waiting for the promised Messiah to arrive -but all they heard was silence. Even though they could not see it, God was busy at work preparing the perfect setting for the revealing of His promised one in the most unexpected way.
Malachi 4:5-6 (the last words of the old testament) foretells of one who will come and lead the way for the Messiah. It says, “See, I will send the prophet Elijah to you before that great and dreadful day of the Lord comes. He will turn the hearts of the parents to their children, and the hearts of the children to their parents; or else I will come and strike the land with total destruction.”
In Luke 1:13,17 God sends His angel to Zechariah to break the silence and announce the fulfillment of the 400-year-old prophecy in Malachi. “Your prayer has been heard. Your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you are to call him John. … And he will go on before the Lord, in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of the parents to their children and the disobedient to the wisdom of the righteous—to make ready a people prepared for the Lord.”
Over the course of the 4-part study, we will look at the first two chapters of the book of Luke to see what God has to say about His coming kingdom. We will listen as Mary, Zechariah, and Simeon respond in song to the good news that the arrival of the long-awaited Messiah was at hand.
Read or listen to the book of Luke – Chapters One and Two (Bible Gateway Link).
- Write your observations from this first reading below.
- Luke is believed to be the author of the book of the Bible that bears his name. Who was Luke? (Col. 4:14)
- Who did Luke write this book for?
- Why does He say he wrote it?
- What centuries-old promise was going to be fulfilled through the birth of a child to Zechariah and Elizabeth? (Mal. 3:1; Mal.4:5-6; Lk 7:24-27; Mat. 3:1-3, Is. 40:3)
- What stood in the way of God’s promised fulfillment? (vv.7, 18)
- When Mary is visited by the angel, she too is promised an impossible thing. What facts stood in the way of its fulfillment?
- In chapters 1-2, Luke writes a well-researched account of the events leading to the birth of Jesus. What do these passages tell you about God?
- Luke 1:1 speaks of “things…fulfilled among us.” How is this truth an encouragement to you?
Help us remember the birth of Jesus,
that we may share in the song of the angels,
the gladness of the shepherds,
and worship of the wise men.
Close the door of hate and open the door of love all over the world. Let kindness come with every gift and good desires with every greeting. Deliver us from evil by the blessing which Christ brings, and teach us to be merry with clear hearts.
May the Christmas morning make us happy to be thy children, and Christmas evening bring us to our beds with grateful thoughts, forgiving and forgiven, for Jesus’ sake. Amen.
(A Christmas Prayer by Robert Louis Stevenson)
Coming soon – Lesson Two – ‘The Canticle of Mary” (Luke 1:46-55) known as the Magnificat.