This week's Small Group Guide is composed of questions from this week's GPS Guide. The questions relate to the Scripture for that particular day. You can download the full week's GPS as a printable document for the context of each question below (in the printable version, the recommended small group questions are marked with a special bullet point.)
Malachi was the only Old Testament writer to use the expression “the sun of righteousness” (but he built on the poetic image in Psalm 84:11). The phrase seemed to clearly show that “All that has been darkened by sin will become light in the Lord.”* In what ways has your walk with God brought greater light into your life? What are some darker corners of your life or your community’s life into which you could shine God’s light during Advent?
Scholar N. T. Wright wrote, “Luke is careful not to dress up the story by making Zechariah a great hero of faith…. God regularly works through ordinary people, doing what they normally do, who with a mixture of half-faith and devotion are holding themselves ready for whatever God has in mind.”** What helps you to hold yourself ready for whatever God has in mind? Has God ever surprised you by doing something through you that you didn’t think you (or God) could do?
Zechariah gave up the highly-prized honor (see verse 61) of naming his son after himself to obey God. John’s calling was not to follow his father as a priest. He challenged some of the customs and teachings of those religious leaders. And John’s ministry was to point to someone greater, not to his own virtues or strengths. What inner qualities did Zechariah and John need to live out God’s call without resentment or bitterness? How can you nurture those qualities in your life?
The phrase “just as he said through the mouths of his holy prophets long ago” took in so much hoping, praying, waiting and trusting. God’s covenant with Abraham, God’s pledge to David, God’s promise of a deliverer to make our broken world new—it was all happening after all those waiting centuries! How can the Advent story of John’s (and Jesus') birth help to nourish and sustain your trust in God’s big promises?
* Bruce Demarest, study note on Malachi 4:2 in The Renovare Spiritual Formation Bible. HarperSanFrancisco, 2005, p. 1385.
** N. T. Wright, Luke for Everyone. Louisville: Westminster John Knox Press, 2004, pp. 7-8.
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