There’s no better time of year to explore the life of Mary than now, as we head into the Advent and Christmas season.
The Gospels mention Mary in only a few verses, so we easily assume there’s not much to learn about her life. Yet she was present as a silent witness and guiding force throughout Jesus’ early years, she was with him at the foot of the cross, and she continued his work as one of his disciples. Her story of sacrifice and devotion serves as a model for us as we seek to deepen our commitment to the Lord—and it provides the perfect church curriculum for this holy season.
A volume in the Studies in Faithful Living Series, Mary: Devoted to God’s Plan, is available as a complete church curriculum or an individual study guide, allowing your entire church to engage Mary’s rich and compelling story together. Both versions feature infographics, maps, thought-provoking questions and answer boxes, Bible study tips, and an annotated reading list for further study.
Here’s a peek at what you’ll find in chapter 2 of Mary: Devoted to God’s Plan:
Historical & Cultural Background. Luke does not tell us exactly where Elizabeth lived in Judah. He simply describes the area as “the hill country” (Luke 1:39). The book of Joshua lists nine cities in the hill country of the tribe of Judah (Josh. 15:48–54; see also Josh. 11:21). It’s likely Elizabeth and Zechariah lived in the hilly region to the southwest of Jerusalem.
Mary came from Nazareth, a Galilean city west of the Sea of Galilee (see Luke 1:26). Her journey from Nazareth to the hill country of Judah covered between 80 and 100 miles. Luke does not mention whether Mary made any preparations for the trip or how she traveled; she may have gone on foot or as part of a caravan. In Mary’s day, a person traveling by foot could cover about 20 miles per day. If Mary walked to Elizabeth’s home, it would have taken her four to five days. If she accompanied a caravan, she would have arrived in about three days.
Tip: Looking at a map can often shed light on a story. To see the distance Mary had to travel to see Elizabeth, open up Logos and select “Biblical Places” under the “Tools” menu, and then search for “Nazareth.” Select the map titled “Jesus’ Journeys to Jerusalem.” You’ll see Nazareth at the top in the region of Galilee, and the hill country of Judah in the south, west of the Dead Sea between the cities of Jerusalem and Hebron.
In either case, Mary demonstrated her courage as well as her desire for confirmation of God’s plan—such a journey would have been dangerous, especially for a young girl alone. Mary serves as a role model, not only for her obedience, but for her action. She overcome any fear she may have had about surrendering to God’s call on her life or facing the possible danger involved in confirming his will. Such complete surrender freed her to act in confidence.
Dig deeper into the life of Mary and take your faith to a new level of commitment as you and your congregation prepare to celebrate Jesus’ birth with the complete church curriculum or the individual study guide.