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Descent of the Holy Spirit on Mary

Six months after the angel Gabriel’s visit to Zachariah announcing that his aged wife Elizabeth will conceive a son, Gabriel visits a Jewish peasant maiden named Mary. He tells her that she is favored and blessed among women and has been chosen by God to conceive and bear a son whom she will call Jesus. Gabriel’s visit to Mary is known as the Annunciation.

Of course, Mary wonders how this can occur as she is a virgin. Gabriel tells her “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be holy; he will be called Son of God. (Luke 1:35) Mary then says, “Here am I, the servant of the Lord; let it be with me according to your word.” (Luke 1:38)

The term overshadow does not refer to divine sexual activity as found in Greek myths of gods impregnating women. By using the Greek term for overshadow, Luke emphasizes the miraculous circumstances of Jesus’ conception and removes any thoughts of sexual intercourse. The emphasis here is that Jesus has human and divine origins.

In other words, the entire birth story is not a matter of biology. It is a matter of religious truths and beliefs. Mary represents the faithful of Israel who respond to God’s call for humble loving service.

Whatever your belief or acceptance or rejection of these birth narratives, all gospels want to make it clear that Jesus is God who comes to us in the flesh. His incarnation is a new creative act and revelation by God.

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A Refugee’s Thanksgiving – My Husband’s Story

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All my life, God has been with me. Sometimes I did not realize what God was doing; but as I grow older, I know God, God’s people, and our hard work carried us through some pretty tough times.

We left my home country of Latvia in late 1944. The Soviet bombers were dropping their bombs on certain parts of the capital city of Riga. We could see the smoke spiral upwards from the fires the bombs started. We understood the Soviet Army was about ten miles away. Continue reading A Refugee’s Thanksgiving – My Husband’s Story

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Lessons from the Tree of Life

It’s November. Wind blows leaves off their trees. Yet they lack the beautiful variation and colors of past years. Why? Could the severe drought of last year and the moderate drought of this year be the cause?

We could say out lives are like the leaves on the trees. If the trees are watered, fertilized, and free from invasive vines and insects, chances are their foliage is a beautiful gift to those who lift their eyes from their smart phones and observe the beauty in nature.

We, too, have a similar life cycle to a tree. How we nourish our spiritual lives that influence not only our life but the lives of other people will be displayed in the fruit we bear. We may or may not provide others with shade as well as protection from the dysfunction in society if we fail to nourish our own spiritual lives.

Will our life’s end be a dried up colorless leaf or a vibrant multi-colored one?

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Teaching Tips

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If Christian educators are not properly prepared and confident about what they teach and how they teach or if the material they present to their students lacks depth, or seems like a fairy tale, then the realities and pressures of our times will cause our young people to abandon or take a wrong turn in their spiritual quest. They will never answer for themselves the four major questions our faith and our life’s journey demand us to ask: Who am I? Who are you? Who is God; and What does God want of me?

To ensure that our young people do come to terms with these questions, the Mustard Seed Series uses Jesus’ own teaching techniques of parables and open-ended questions. In our lives as Christians, there are often no easy or ready-made answers to difficult questions and uncertainties. All of us need to ask how we as Christians can be God’s instruments in such matters as refugee and displaced persons resettlement, towards the starving in Africa, towards persecuted minorities, and towards the homeless and vulnerable in America. In the Mustard Seed Series as in life, questions arise for which there are no easy or ready-made answers.

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The Parable of the Lightbulb

God speaks to us in many different ways. But are we listening and aware of God’s presence and message?

A beautiful, old tall night table lamp began to flicker occasionally when it was turned on. The householder paid no attention to it so long as it functioned and provided the necessary light. Then one night, the householder was reading in bed when sparks ignited a fire around the lightbulb’s socket. She reached to turn off the lamp’s switch but realized she would burn her hands. So she pulled the plug and the power behind the fire was extinguished.

The next day, she looked on the internet to purchase replacement lamps. In her search, she learned that lamps had maximum proscribed light-bulb wattage. Perhaps the light bulb she was using exceeded the limitations built into the lamp. Perhaps her home was almost lost for violating the lamp’s creator’s restrictions which were forgotten or ignored for years.

It took more than a week for the stench of the fire to dissipate.

Think about it:

  • Are we like a lamp with built-in limitations?
  • Are we aware of them and their importance to our lives?
  • Should we let these limitations govern our lives? What happens then?
  • In a dire circumstance has the plug ever been pulled on you? What happened then?
  • If you believe God is the creator of the universe, what are the consequences if we do or do not observe and/or restrict our behavior in accordance with God’s will as conveyed to us through Moses, the prophets, and Jesus?
  • What will happen to the old table lamp?