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Lesson: Great Expectations

Icebreaker

Do your life and workplace slow down during this time of year or speed up?

Prayer

“Oh, how my soul praises the Lord. How my spirit rejoices in God my Savior! For he took notice of his lowly servant!” (Luke 1:46–48 NLT).

Key Scripture

Luke 1:30–31, 38 NLT: “‘Don’t be afraid, Mary,’ the angel told her, ‘for you have found favor with God! You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you will name him Jesus.’ … Mary responded, ‘I am the Lord’s servant. May everything you have said about me come true.’ And then the angel left her.”

The Big Idea

What comes to your mind when we talk about expecting? Do you envision a runner at the starting line, or maybe a woman with child? In these instances, more than a wish or a hope is involved. At this level, the person is anxiously waiting with expectation for something specific to happen. In similar fashion, God appreciates childlike faith and expectancy in our relationship with Him. Today we will look at people in the Christmas story and see whether they treated the promise of God with expectancy or doubt.

Discussion

What are you expectant of in this coming year? Share with the group.

Each of us has a picture for our life. The expectations we often have, however, pale in comparison with what is possible through the Lord’s working on our behalf. In our Christmas story, Zechariah had trouble receiving the word of the Lord. Even though he had prayed for a child his whole life, he had no true expectation. Mary, on the other hand, heard similar news that was difficult to comprehend, yet she was all in with great expectation.

Discussion

Has something ever happened in your life that was obviously God’s doing, but you were not expecting it? What was it, and how did you respond?

When Zechariah was selected to burn incense in the presence of the Lord, it may have been his first time to receive this privilege. Amazingly, as he performed his duty, the angel Gabriel appeared before him. The angel declared that Zechariah’s prayers for a child had been heard. Never underestimate the power of your prayers that have gone before. Unfortunately, Zechariah, now much older than when he first began to pray, doubted the angel’s words. He was a good person, a faithful believer, but he had no expectation, even while cowering in fear before an angel!

Discussion

As seasoned believers, do we sometimes fall into the same trap as Zechariah did? Do younger believers sometimes get their miracles more easily than older saints? Discuss why you think this is so.

Next, the angel visited a common young teenager and announced another birth. Mary heard the angel’s news and said amen to it. She did not doubt; she only asked how this would come about since she was unmarried. Her heart was full and obedient. This is quite a contrast to Zechariah’s demand for a sign. Be careful not to anger God with unbelief.

Discussion

What is our expectation level as a church? Why do more miracles happen outside the USA than inside? Are we as a church agreeing like Mary or doubting like Zechariah? What could we do to be more like Mary?

Sometimes our expectation needs an encourager. Mary found John’s mother, Elizabeth. Upon unborn Jesus entering the room, John the Baptist leapt in his mother’s womb, being filled with the Holy Ghost. Similarly, you and I must seek out true confidants in the faith to lift our expectancy.

Mary teaches us that praise comes before the promise. Mary sang praise before she even began to show. Perhaps Zechariah was silenced by the angel so that he would not discourage Mary. His wife, on the other hand, was full of faith and partnered with Mary, walking out her faith journey with her.

Discussion

You have the ability to be an encourager of expectancy to other believers. Whom do you seek out for agreement? Who seeks you out?

Application

Confront your low expectation. Realize that Zechariah’s doubts were rebuked, and imitate instead young Mary’s faith and agreement. Live expectantly of the great things the Lord will do.

Action Point

How to engage your expectations: (1) Receive a word from God. (2) Agree with God. (3) Agree with someone. (4) Praise as if it’s already happened. (5) Look daily as if it’s on its way. (6) Make preparations in expectation.

For You, the Leader

  1. Instruct group members to do the following:
    • Pray for and touch base with another member before next week.
    • Invite someone to the group next week and/or to attend a church service with you.
    • Encourage someone this week.
  2. Remind the group about outreach. Find out which outreach will be taking place in the zip code closest to your group and participate. One of the greatest joys of life in Christ is serving others!
  3. What is the next step for each member of your group? Whether it is water baptism, Cultivate, or A-Team/B-Group leadership, encourage them in it. Also encourage all members to read their Bible and pray daily.
  4. Close in prayer, asking for any specific prayer requests.
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“God is looking for somebody He can dream through.”
—-Jonathan Stockstill "Here Comes The Dreamer"