Warm-up Question: What famous or accomplished women can you name? What are they recognized for?

There are several annual “Power 100” lists released at the end of the year: the 100 most powerful people in sports, business, politics, and others. But the film industry has its own list: the 100 most powerful women in entertainment, compiled by the respected trade paper The Hollywood Reporter. The list is made public and awards are given at the annual “Power 100” breakfast in December.

Only a handful of this year’s honorees work in front of the camera. Most notable (and least surprising) is Oprah Winfrey, winner of the number one spot. One other performer, actress Angelina Jolie, made the top twenty-five. Former model Tyra Banks and comedy writer/actress Tina Fey were included in the top 51, while Food Network star Rachel Ray appeared at number 65. At the 100th spot was teen star Miley Cyrus.

This was the 17th year of the event. During that time women have made great strides in gaining positions of power in Hollywood. Numerous recipients were CEOs, presidents, and vice presidents of major film companies and television networks, or their own companies.

Discussion Questions

  1. The film industry is over 100 years old. Why has it taken so long for women to gain executive positions in the entertainment industry?
  2. Do you think that women should continue to be honored separately from men, even though they are gaining more respect and better positions every year? Why or why not?
  3. How will we know when women have attained full equality? What will happen then? What will it look like?
  4. What purpose does recognizing the accomplishments of women in entertainment (or any realm of life) serve?

Women of the ELCA have a wealth of resources and ministries to explore…for all ages!

Scripture Texts (NRSV) for Sunday, December 21, 2008.
(Text links are to
oremus Bible Browser. Oremus Bible Browser is not affiliated with or supported by the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. You can find the calendar of readings for Year B at Lectionary Readings.)

  1. 2 Samuel 7:1-11, 16
  2. Luke 1:46b-55 (52) or Psalm 89:1-4, 19-26 (1)
  3. Romans 16:25-27
  4. Luke 1:26-38

For lectionary humor and insight, check the weekly comic Agnus Day.

Gospel Reflection

Whether she is honored as a saint, admired for her courage and faithfulness, or held up as an example of total submission to God’s will, Mary is certainly the most important and memorable woman in the Bible for Christians. She was poor, humble, and most likely illiterate. She hailed from Nazareth, a despised little hick town. Yet, none other than the angel Gabriel tells her that she is “highly favored” by God.

What does this “favor” involve? She becomes the subject of gossip and ridicule when she is found to be pregnant without a husband. Her betrothed, Joseph, almost leaves her. She must watch her son, Jesus, suffer and die. This is favor?

In our world, “favored” means rewarded with position, honor, wealth, and preferential treatment. It is a breakfast where our work is recognized and celebrated. It is winning, gaining, or accomplishing. What did this poor girl, probably no older than a teenager, do to be called favored by God?

Mary was obedient. She declared herself “the handmaiden of the Lord.” She trusted God with her life and her son’s life. She sang for joy in all this, even in the midst of any uncertainty or self-consciousness she may have felt.

Well, that’s fine, but things are different now, aren’t they? Women are powerful, significant. They have rights. They buy and sell and do business around the world. There’s nothing wrong with that. The ideal woman described in Proverbs is a businesswoman (Proverbs 31:16, 18, 24). She receives praise and reward for her work.

In the end though, it is Mary who shows us the ultimate and faithful virtues in the eyes of God: obedience, faith, submission, and joy in the Lord. These are required of anyone — male or female — whom God calls to service, from Abraham to Moses and the prophets, from Ruth to Paul, to Jesus. As Christians, we, too, are called to service and faith even though it will most likely not make us famous, rich, or remembered like Mary.

Discussion Questions

  1. What do submission and obedience to God mean in everyday life? How can ordinary people like you and me practice them?
  2. Submission does not mean being a “doormat” or letting others take advantage of you. How can we show humility like Christ and still stand up for ourselves and others?
  3. What about joy in the Lord, such as Mary expressed in her song, the Magnificat? Where do we get it — joy? What do you think God is promising, and not promising, to us when it comes to joy? How do we sustain it, especially in difficult times? How do you personally measure or describe joy?
  4. Does obedience to God mean that we should not accept praise or rewards for doing God’s work? Why or why not? What is a faithful and humble attitude towards any praise we may receive?

Activity Suggestions

In groups or as a class, make your own top 5 lists (or more or fewer). Start with Biblical characters from both the Old and New Testaments. Who were the most powerful and influential people in the Bible? The best servants? The bravest? Have students make up others.

Activity extension: Do the same with Christians throughout history, people of faith from the past or present, including people from your own congregation.

Suggested Songs

  • “Away in a Manger,” Evangelical Lutheran Worship, #277
  • “Of the Father’s Love Begotten,” Lutheran Book of Worship, #42
  • You can also read or sing the Magnificat (Luke 1:46-55) or “My Soul Does Magnify the Lord,” Evangelical Lutheran Worship, #882

Closing Prayer

God and Father of our Lord, Jesus Christ, we praise you for the example of the one who was highly favored — Mary, our model of faithfulness, obedience, and joy. Like Mary, may we be always humble, always submissive to you will, and always useful to you in service to others. Let us not be absorbed in earthly rewards, but take joy in the gifts you give us both now and for eternity. In the name of your blessed son, Jesus Christ, whose birth we anticipate and celebrate. Amen.

Contributed by Sylvia Alloway
Granada Hills, CA