Malankara World Journal - Christian Spirituality from an Orthodox Perspective
Malankara World Journal

Theme: Magnificat and Visitation

Volume 4 No. 249 November 28, 2014

If the Journal is not displayed properly, please click on the link below (or copy and paste) to read from web
http://www.MalankaraWorld.com/Newsletter/MWJ_249.htm

Archives: http://www.MalankaraWorld.com/Newsletter/Default.htm

St. Mary Visits Elizabeth
St. Mary Visits Elizabeth
TABLE OF CONTENTS
If you are not receiving your own copy of Malankara World by email, please add your name to our subscription list. It is free. click here.

I. This Sunday in Church

1. Bible Readings for This Sunday (November 30)

Bible Readings For St. Mary's visit to Elizabeth

http://www.Malankaraworld.com/Library/Lectionary/Lec_mary-visits-elizabeth.htm

2. Sermons for This Sunday (November 30)

Sermons For St. Mary's visit to Elizabeth

http://www.Malankaraworld.com/Library/Sermons/Sermon-of-the-week_Mary-visits-elizabeth.htm

3. More Resources On The Visit of St. Mary to Elizabeth

Malankara World Journal Issue No: 111: This was a Malankara World Journal Special on the Visit of St. Mary and the Magnificat. Definitely worth reading or re-reading.
http://www.MalankaraWorld.com/Newsletter/MWJ_111.htm

Malankara World Supplement on St. Mary:
For more articles, hymns, prayers, and eBooks on St. Mary, please visit Malankara World Supplement on St. Mary here:

http://www.MalankaraWorld.com/Library/shunoyo/StMary.htm

II. This Week's Features

4. Inspirational: Goodness and Love of God Will Follow Us All the Days of Our Lives

It was well into the second quarter of the high school basketball game when the senior captain of the home team showed up late.

Just that morning his mother unexpectedly passed away from a sudden hemorrhage. She'd been in remission after a five-year fight with cervical cancer when she took the fatal turn.

Some of the team had been at the hospital with their grieving friend. Although they had an important game that night, the guys wanted to cancel it. Brokenhearted, the senior captain encouraged the team to play.

You can imagine everyone's surprise when this young man came out to root for his team. ...

5. Mary's Song Prepares Us for Mary's Son

What Mary is singing about here is what is sometimes called the "Great Reversal," the great change in position that God will accomplish in the sending of his Son. The high and mighty will be brought low. The poor and lowly will be lifted up. Just the opposite, just the reverse, of the way the world sees things. God brings it about in the person of Christ.

For Christ himself came from the heights of heaven and was born the lowly child of Mary. He laid aside his glory. He humbled himself and became obedient unto death, even death on a cross. Christ Jesus was brought low--lifted up on a cross and then brought low and laid in a tomb--he, the Holy One of God. That's why he came in the flesh--to take our place, to suffer death for us. ...

6. Blessed is She - Mary Visits Elizabeth

This is the promise of Christmas, as we sing our carols, pray our prayers, and offer ourselves to the work of God. God has a mission to this world. It is announced by Elizabeth's child on behalf of Mary's son. God comes to say that every single one of us matters. If our lives are barren, God has the power to fill them. If our hopes have frozen, God comes to re-ignite them. If our work is hard and met with resistance, if faith is shaky and energy is depleted, God comes in the blessing of the Holy Spirit. This gift is not a birthright or a stockpiled asset. The Spirit comes and goes, as wild as the winter wind. But the Spirit does come – and that is God's blessing – to Elizabeth, to Mary, and to us. ...

7. Even Mary Needed a Friend

Elizabeth was more than an incubator for the forerunner of Jesus, John the Baptist. She was a prophet who God chose to mentor the mother of His child. Elizabeth's grasp of the situation was remarkable! She understood that Mary was carrying the Messiah when even those closest to Jesus in future years would not.

And why was that? It is simple, really. It was not because Elizabeth was especially smart. It is because the illuminating power of the Holy Spirit revealed it to her. And that is the same with you and with me. We understand spiritual truth only when the Holy Spirit opens our eyes to see. ...

8. Go to God - Hannah's Tearful Prayer

Your heartaches are God's concern; your burdens are His to bear for you. You can take comfort in the knowledge that "casting all your anxiety on Him, because He cares for you," your heart will be eased (1 Peter 5:7). "God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble" (Psalm 46:1). Never forget that God is your greatest source of help; of strength; of comfort; of refuge. ...

9. What Do You See? (Judging Others)

Look for beauty within all of it. Be open to the innumerable lessons that others have to teach you. Choose not to judge. ...

10. God Looks Beyond the Surface

Get rid of what somebody has spoken over you and start renewing your mind. Down deep, start believing that you are redeemed, restored, talented and valuable. Even if you have made mistakes, believe that there is more in store. God's not finished with you. He looks beyond the surface and sees your potential. Stay in step with Him and watch His plan for your life unfold. ...

11. Family Special: How to Keep Your Relationship Pure

No one can make you to do anything you don't want to. Not your boyfriend, girlfriend, hormones, classmates, teammates, buddies, society, anyone. Sin comes down to one person: you. In the end we will be held accountable for what we choose and don't choose. You can make the change, you can make the effort, you can prove your love through your actions and inaction. ...

12. About Malankara World

This Sunday in Church
Bible Readings for This Sunday (November 30)
Sermons for This Sunday (November 30)

More Resources On The Visit of St. Mary to Elizabeth

Malankara World Journal Issue No: 111

This was a Malankara World Journal Special on Magnificat and the Visit of St. Mary. Definitely worth reading or re-reading.

Volume 2 No 111: Nov 29 2012 - Theme: Magnificat and St. Mary's Visit
http://www.MalankaraWorld.com/Newsletter/MWJ_111.htm

Malankara World Supplement on St. Mary

For more articles, hymns, prayers, and eBooks on St. Mary, please visit Malankara World Supplement on St. Mary here:
http://www.MalankaraWorld.com/Library/shunoyo/StMary.htm

This Week's Features

Inspirational: Goodness and Love of God Will Follow Us All the Days of Our Lives

by Sheila Mangum

"Surely goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the LORD forever."
- Psalm 23:6 (NIV)

It was well into the second quarter of the high school basketball game when the senior captain of the home team showed up late.

Just that morning his mother unexpectedly passed away from a sudden hemorrhage. She'd been in remission after a five-year fight with cervical cancer when she took the fatal turn.

Some of the team had been at the hospital with their grieving friend. Although they had an important game that night, the guys wanted to cancel it. Brokenhearted, the senior captain encouraged the team to play.

You can imagine everyone's surprise when this young man came out to root for his team.

His coach asked him if he wanted to sit on the bench with his teammates.

"No," he replied. "I want to play."

Game rules prevented anyone not on the pre-game roster to play unless the opposing team was granted a technical foul that would give them two free throws. It was a tight game, but his coach willingly traded the points to comfort his player.

But that is not where the compassion stopped.

The other coach wasn't interested in the free throws. He wanted to let the brokenhearted player just play. With no penalties. This coach and the referees argued over the rules until the referees won with, "Rules will not be broken."

So, after a brief conversation with his coach, the visiting team's senior captain took his place on the free throw line.

Giving his coach an understanding nod, he dribbled the ball and threw it two feet. The crowd stared in wonder as the ball rolled off the court. The second free throw landed at his feet. He had purposefully missed guaranteed points.

This gesture of sportsmanship ignited a standing ovation. Applause roared throughout the gym. The crowd witnessed a rare act of kindness birthed out of the goodness of the visiting coach and captain's hearts.

We don't often hear about people taking hold of opportunities to demonstrate such graciousness. But every day we can see God's goodness if we simply take the time. Psalm 23:6 tells us that "Surely goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the LORD forever."

Before the brokenhearted player even arrived at the game, God's goodness followed him, ready to show up when he needed it most. Goodness tapped two coaches on the shoulders. Goodness whispered in the hearts of a group of teenagers.

God's goodness is here for us as well. We find it in His daily care and love, especially in times of hardship. But we have to "get in the game" to see it. If we're checked out of life, not spending time in prayer, or not actively seeking to recognize God's goodness, we'll miss it. True, His goodness might not always seem as evident as a team opting out of free points in a basketball game, but God's goodness is all around us.

Could His kindness and love be the encouraging word or hug from a friend? Perhaps it's peace that comes unexpectedly. Or maybe it's the conversation with the grocery store clerk that brought a smile to your face.

This young man who lost his mother probably had no idea how he was going to ease the pain that surrounded him. You may be wondering that very thing as well. This is why God promises, "The LORD is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit" (Psalm 34:18). God wants to be closer to you than the pain. One way He does this is by following you with His goodness and showing up through the hands and hearts of others.

I cannot tell you who won the last Super Bowl. I don't know who the Major League's MVP is. There's no way I can spout off the NBA lineup. What I can tell you about is the day God's goodness followed a crushed young man into a gymnasium during a high school basketball game in Milwaukee and made His goodness known. I can tell you he played the rest of the game, scoring ten points that led to his team's victory.

But most importantly, I can tell you that God's goodness is following you. Will you get in the game and look for it?

Dear Lord, I praise You for Your goodness. Open my eyes that I will fully see Your marvelous ways. Amen.

Reflect and Respond:

God's goodness is following you and wants to be closer to you than the pain. Look for His goodness to show up for you.

Who will you demonstrate God's goodness to today? How?

Power Verse:

Psalm 3:3, "But you are a shield around me, O LORD, you bestow glory on me and lift up my head."

Source: Encouragement for Today; © 2013 by Sheila Mangum. All rights reserved.

Mary's Song Prepares Us for Mary's Son

by The Rev. Charles Henrickson

Gospel: Luke 1:46-55

One of the things we're doing this month in our Advent and Christmas services is looking at a number of texts from Luke's "Infancy Narrative," that is, the first two chapters of Luke's gospel, which concern events related to the birth of Jesus Christ. And one of the distinctive features of Luke chapters 1 and 2 is the inclusion of four poetic, song-like pieces--in other words, the four canticles of Luke. And those four canticles are as follows: Mary's Song, the Magnificat; Zechariah's Song, the Benedictus; the Angels' Song, the Gloria in Excelsis; and Simeon's Song, the Nunc Dimittis. The fact that these four canticles are referred to by their Latin titles shows their long history of usage in the church's worship.

Our text today is the first of those four canticles, Mary's Song, the Magnificat. Mary, newly pregnant with the Christ child, breaks into this song of praise that we call the Magnificat. Let's listen now to her words and hear how "Mary's Song Prepares Us for Mary's Son."

And Mary said,

"My soul magnifies the Lord,
and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,
for he has looked on the humble estate of his servant.
For behold, from now on all generations will call me blessed;
for he who is mighty has done great things for me,
and holy is his name.
And his mercy is for those who fear him
from generation to generation.
He has shown strength with his arm;
he has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts;
he has brought down the mighty from their thrones
and exalted those of humble estate;
he has filled the hungry with good things,
and the rich he has sent away empty.
He has helped his servant Israel,
in remembrance of his mercy,
as he spoke to our fathers,
to Abraham and to his offspring forever."

- Luke 1:46-55 (ESV)

"My soul magnifies the Lord," Mary begins. In Latin that would be "Magnificat anima mea Dominum." And so the first word "Magnificat" is where we get the title for this canticle. To "magnify" is to "make great." Think of a magnifying lens. It's not that a magnifying lens makes the thing you're looking at any larger than it actually is. It's just that when you magnify something, it occupies more of your vision. That which you are magnifying is all you can see at that moment. So it is for Mary as her soul "magnifies" the Lord. It's not that she could make the Lord any greater than he already is. It's just that she is totally occupied with his greatness. What he had done for her, and what he was in the process of doing for his people--this was so great that when she stopped to think about it, she couldn't help but sing.

Mary serves as a good example for us in this regard. It's good to stop and think about what the Lord has done for us and what he continues to do. That's what we do here in church, isn't it? When we stop and think of what God has done for us by sending his Son into the flesh as the son of Mary, we can't help but to join Mary in her song of praise.

"My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, for he has looked on the humble estate of his servant." Here Mary magnifies the Lord in a way we all can identify with. She calls God her "Savior," in whom she rejoices. To know this same God, that he is our Savior, too--this is a joyful thing. God is the Savior of people who need his help, who are in need of saving. He looked on the humble estate of his servant Mary, and he is mindful of our low estate, as well. You and I--we were nobody special that God should look on us so kindly. And yet he is our Savior. What a joy this is! What a joy it gives us!

"For behold, from now on all generations will call me blessed; for he who is mighty has done great things for me, and holy is his name." Now Mary magnifies the Lord in a way that only she could do. For only she had the unique privilege of being the mother of the Christ child. Imagine the feelings Mary must have experienced, to ponder that out of all the women in history she would be the one to give birth to the Savior of the world! "Surely, Lord, you could have chosen a princess or a queen; but instead you have chosen your lowly servant, a humble handmaiden. Lord, you have done great things for me. How mighty you are, and how mighty will be this little king I am carrying! How holy you are, and how holy this Son of God who will be born."

Mary says, "From now on all generations will call me blessed." Her relative Elizabeth had just called her blessed: "Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb!" Now Mary recognizes that not just Elizabeth but all generations will call her the most blessed of women for having had the great honor of giving birth to the Savior of the world.

Mary then expands her song from how God had blessed her individually to what God was doing for his people as a whole by sending the Savior into the world: "And his mercy is for those who fear him from generation to generation." Yes, from generation to generation God keeps on showing his mercy to his people. It started way back when, long before Mary. She recalls how the Lord has been faithful in showing mercy over time, generation after generation, throughout Israel's history, culminating now in the birth of the Messiah.

But that same mercy which God shows toward his people extends also even down to us. From generation to generation, century after century, the mercies of the Lord are new every morning. Even now, as we come toward Christmas, Anno Domini, "in the year of our Lord," 2014. Over two thousand years since we turned the calendar, marking the birth of Christ. Throughout all those years, and for all the years to come, we have a merciful God. His mercy extends, from generation to generation.

What is God's mercy? God's mercy is that he looks upon us in our sorry state and does something to help us. God sees our misery, the wretched condition we inflicted on ourselves as a result of our sin. And we are living in "the state of misery," in more ways than one: sickness, strife, discord, death. A sorry lot indeed. But God shows his mercy toward us precisely in our misery. "Lord, have mercy," we pray. And he does. His mercy is such that he cares for us day by day, he helps us in our distress, and he has provided the ultimate answer to all our woes in the person of this little child he sent. That's why Mary is singing. She sees this child as the great sign, the great fulfillment, of God's mercy toward humankind.

What is God's mercy like, through all these generations? How does God work, how does he operate, in his dealings toward man? Mary tells us: "He has shown strength with his arm; he has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts; he has brought down the mighty from their thrones and exalted those of humble estate; he has filled the hungry with good things, and the rich he has sent empty away." What is Mary singing about here? That this is how God acts toward men, in a twofold way, in a twofold action. In a word--in two words, actually--he brings down, and he lifts up. He brings down the proud. He lifts up the lowly. This is Law and Gospel, this twofold word of God.

To those who are proud in themselves--like the Pharisee who stood in the temple, boasting--God will scatter them to the winds. To those who feel like they are in control, the rulers of their own destiny--God will bring them down from their thrones. To those who are rich in things, in the pleasures of this life--like the rich man to whom God said, "Thou fool!" or like the rich man who ignored poor Lazarus--God will send them away empty. This is how God deals with all who are secure in themselves, who feel no need for forgiveness, who have no use for a Savior. He will bring those haughty souls down.

But the lowly he will lift up. He exalts those of humble estate. This is the good news in Mary's song. God shows strength with his arm on behalf of his not-so-strong, not-so-mighty people, whose arms are too weak to save themselves. God exalts those of humble estate--and if truth be told, you and I have a lot to be humble about! When I look in the mirror, I see a man who fails himself, who fails his family, who fails his neighbor and his God. That's me. That's you, too. We are exactly what we confess--poor, miserable sinners. But those are exactly the kind of people God lifts up--the lowly. He fills the hungry with good things--things like righteousness, things like the forgiveness of sins. I'm hungry for that, aren't you? I need that, in order to live. Hungry ones, God will fill you, he will satisfy you.

What Mary is singing about here is what is sometimes called the "Great Reversal," the great change in position that God will accomplish in the sending of his Son. The high and mighty will be brought low. The poor and lowly will be lifted up. Just the opposite, just the reverse, of the way the world sees things. God brings it about in the person of Christ.

For Christ himself came from the heights of heaven and was born the lowly child of Mary. He laid aside his glory. He humbled himself and became obedient unto death, even death on a cross. Christ Jesus was brought low--lifted up on a cross and then brought low and laid in a tomb--he, the Holy One of God. That's why he came in the flesh--to take our place, to suffer death for us.

Yet this is exactly how he strikes down our high and mighty enemies: death, grave, devil, and hell. Those proud rulers are brought low, scattered, sent away empty--as empty as the tomb from which Christ rose. God raised this Jesus up, in victory over sin and death; and now you who trust in Christ--God will raise you up, too. This is the Great Reversal: God bringing down the proud and lifting up the lowly. This is what God will accomplish in the little baby to whom Mary is going to give birth.

Mary concludes her song of praise to God: "He has helped his servant Israel, in remembrance of his mercy, as he spoke to our fathers, to Abraham and to his offspring forever." Mary praises the Lord for being faithful to his promises, faithful to his covenant, faithful to his word. God had made a promise to Abraham, saying, "In your seed, Abraham, all the nations of the earth will be blessed." One of the descendants of Abraham, one from the nation of Israel, would be the one to fulfill this promise. And here he is, this Jesus who is to be born. He is the seed of Abraham who will bring blessing to the world.

And so Mary's son brings the blessing to us. And that's something to sing about! "My soul magnifies the Lord!" Mary's song, then--Mary's song prepares us for Mary's son. In him the lowly are lifted up. In him God's mercy extends, from generation to generation. So magnify the Lord with Mary, and let us exalt his name together!

Blessed is She - Mary Visits Elizabeth

by William G. Carter

Gospel: Luke 1:39-45

In those days Mary set out and went with haste to a Judean town in the hill country, where she entered the house of Zechariah and greeted Elizabeth. When Elizabeth heard Mary's greeting, the child leaped in her womb. And Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit and exclaimed with a loud cry, "Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb. And why has this happened to me, that the mother of my Lord comes to me? For as soon as I heard the sound of your greeting, the child in my womb leaped for joy. And blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfillment of what was spoken to her by the Lord."
- Luke 1:39-45

Two pregnant women meet in our Bible story. They have a conversation with no men participating. One of them is very old, the other is very young. The young woman traveled some distance to initiate the conversation. She greets the old lady, and then the old lady does all the talking.

Her name is Elizabeth. She was the daughter of a Jewish priest. Her husband is a Jewish priest, and was the son of a Jewish priest. It was probably an arranged marriage, as many such marriages were. She supported her husband and his work, because it was the same family business, so to speak. She knew what it required, as her husband tended to the ministry of God.

But her life was marked by a great irony. As her husband served a generous God, God had withheld the blessing of a child from Elizabeth. In her fertile years, she had wanted a baby but the child never came. The door stayed shut, as relatives and neighbors birthed their babies and presented them for her husband's blessing. Prayers for a child had gone unanswered, and Elizabeth had long settled down into advanced middle age. This was her life's one disappointment. There is no evidence that she was resentful or bitter, just disappointed. She learned to smile while she stayed empty inside.

But then, about six months before, there was that day when Zechariah came home from the temple. His eyes were wild. His tongue was tied. Something had happened to him. What was it? He could not say.

It was clear from his pantomime that he was deeply affected by a holy moment in Jerusalem. But what? She had helped him prepare for a most significant event. Zechariah's division had been scheduled to serve as priests in the temple. While he was there, he was chosen for the first and only time in his life to go into the holiest place on earth. Behind the curtains, deep into the heart of the temple, into the inner chamber – it was said that if God were to appear anywhere on earth, it would happen there.

And then it happened to Zechariah. The awesome angel appeared and said, "Don't be afraid. God hears your prayer. Your wife will bear you a son." In a moment of pure stupidity, the old Jewish priest said, "I don't know how this could happen. We are as old as Abraham and Sarah . . ."

The angel said, "Oh, be quiet!" Zechariah stumbled out of there, his face sunburned by glory. He staggered home. Elizabeth caught him, held him close, asked, "Dear heart, are you OK?" Soon after that, she was astonished by his vigor. Repeatedly she was astonished. And when the morning sickness came, she was astonished again.

A child grew inside her, just as the angel had said. She pondered this deeply. The first time she ever speaks in scripture, she proclaims something profound: "God has replaced disgrace by grace."

Now it's six months later. As she sorts through the laundry, her distant relative's daughter shows up in her doorframe. The child in her belly gave a kick. Then another one. She dropped the laundry basket and took a breath. As young Mary helped her scoop up the clothing, they began the conversation that has been recorded in today's text. These two pregnant women speak of their mysteries. They find one another. Neither is hidden from the other. On a purely human level, did they speak of the same surprises that pregnant women share? Of course they did.

Yet the conversation we have is at a different level. As Luke tells it, it is a conversation prompted by the Holy Spirit. Luke loves to talk about the Holy Spirit. He says here, "Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit." What does that mean? This is Luke's way of saying that she is full of God. When somebody is "filled with the Holy Spirit," it means God gets into them. The power of God fills up Elizabeth. The joy of God overflows out of her. The breath of God fills her lungs and she exhales blessings.

In the temple, her old man Zechariah had his holy moment. This is now hers. God infuses her body and soul. God gets into her, as much as God gets into anybody. Such moments can come to any of us. I believe they can come at any time. They have come for others, they have come to me. It's an uncalculated event of pure grace, a moment when the Holy Force of the universe becomes deeply personal, and we are affected and changed.

I recall a couple of years ago. There was a person who was as angry a soul as any I have ever met. She stomped around, created wreckage wherever she went. But that Christmas Eve, her heart completely thawed, and she descended into a flood of tears. When she caught her breath, she explained, "I was singing Silent Night by candlelight, and I couldn't help myself. I couldn't help myself." I think I know what it was. God got into her. Or as Luke says, "Filled with the Holy Spirit."

Nobody manufactures these moments. They fall on us out of heaven. As Luke introduces us to the coming of Jesus into our world, he says the Spirit of God gets into all kinds of people: Elizabeth, Zechariah, their son John, mother Mary, old Simeon and ancient Anna. The Spirit prompts the birth of Jesus, and then falls on him completely when he is baptized thirty years later. As Jesus prays, preaches, heals, and feed, the Spirit spills out of him for the benefit of other people. Then the Spirit comes upon a frightened group of his friends and turns them into a bold and serving church.

In our text, the Spirit comes upon Elizabeth, mother of John the Baptist, and she is no longer the same person. She begins to speak while her husband the priest remains mute. Even if she were a woman of her times, instructed by the male-dominated culture to be quiet and stay out of sight, here she is, bubbling over with blessings, effusively honoring the future mother of Jesus. There is something new happening in the world, signals Luke: it's time for the women to speak of God's goodness. They are not to be swept away in the old world of Jewish tradition. Oh no, not when the Spirit of God comes upon them!

What we have here is a story about the turning of the ages. The old Elizabeth – barren like Sarah, barren like Rebecca, barren like Rachel, barren like Hannah[1] – she is having a child because of the generosity of God. She stands for the women of every age who are disregarded and dismissed because they cannot produce for their men – and God provides what their men cannot provide for them.

It's like the ancient vision of the prophet Isaiah:

Sing, O barren one, who did not bear;
burst into song and shout, you who have not been in labor!
For the children of the desolate woman will be more numerous
than the children of her that is married.
[2]

Something is happening through Elizabeth – the barrenness of centuries of Jewish hopes is now being countered by the grace of God.

And something is happening in Mary, the young unmarried woman. Her child comes as a complete gift, unrequested, unexpected, without the initiation of any man. The Spirit comes upon Mary, and that's all it takes to have a child. That's all it takes. And this child of hers will grow to honor women and men as equal children of God. He will push aside the cultural restrictions of his day to speak to women, to heal them, to welcome their support of his work. He counters the world's disgraceful assessment of women with God's abundant grace. So it is the women who first sing of his birth, and women who first share the announcement of his resurrection.

How can this be? It's because God gives God's own self to the world. God breathes God's Breath as a way of pushing open something new. Without the Holy Spirit – without God's purpose or presence in our lives – we are left only to ourselves. All we have is our own words, our limited hopes, our restricted abilities. But when God comes into our midst, we find ourselves players in some larger plan.

"Blessed is she who believes that what God speaks will happen." Elizabeth the old sings this to Mary the young. With this burst of Spirit, the ages turn and something new is announced.

This is the promise of Christmas, as we sing our carols, pray our prayers, and offer ourselves to the work of God. God has a mission to this world. It is announced by Elizabeth's child on behalf of Mary's son. God comes to say that every single one of us matters. If our lives are barren, God has the power to fill them. If our hopes have frozen, God comes to re-ignite them. If our work is hard and met with resistance, if faith is shaky and energy is depleted, God comes in the blessing of the Holy Spirit. This gift is not a birthright or a stockpiled asset. The Spirit comes and goes, as wild as the winter wind. But the Spirit does come – and that is God's blessing – to Elizabeth, to Mary, and to us.

Watch for this, O beloved people of God, for all of you are pregnant. You have the seed of God's future planted deep within you. Watch and prepare for the Spirit to fill you, to move you, to lift you, to empower you, to increase in you. Prepare for a great and benevolent force beyond your own to equip you to love strangers, to forgive enemies, to create new possibilities for life where there were once only death and dead-ends.

Trust the good news of God. And remember one thing more: belief is a muscle that needs exercise.

References:

[1] Genesis 11:30, 25:21, 29:31, 1 Samuel 1:2
[2] Isaiah 54:1

(c) William G. Carter. All rights reserved.

Even Mary Needed a Friend

by Sharon Jaynes

Today's Truth

Yes, I see it all now: I'm the Lord's maid, ready to serve. Let it be with me just as you say (Luke 1:38, The Message).

Friend to Friend

Has God ever asked you to do something that seemed illogical in your pretty head? Has He ever called you to a task that seemed nigh to impossible? Can you imagine how Mary, the mother of Jesus, must have felt when Gabriel gave her the news of her impending pregnancy?

This heavenly decision caused an earthly dilemma. An unwed pregnancy could lead to her parents disowning her, her fiancée divorcing her, and her accusers stoning her to death. She had to know that she was called. God sent an angel to explain her calling and sent her to Elizabeth for confirmation.

When God called Moses to lead the Israelites out of Egyptian captivity, Moses tried to convince Him to send someone else (Exodus 4:13). When God called Gideon to lead the Israelites into battle, Gideon reminded Him of his lack of credentials and asked for a sign (Judges 6:17). When God called Jeremiah to be the next great prophet, Jeremiah argued that he was far too young for the job (Jeremiah 1:6). When God appointed Jonah to preach repentance to the people of Nineveh, he hopped on the next boat out of town (Jonah 1:3). But when God called Mary to bear His only Son, she accepted the assignment with beauty and grace.

"I am the Lord's servant," Mary answered. "May it be to me as you have said."

In Peterson's paraphrase, The Message, Mary said, "Yes, I see it all now: I'm the Lord's maid, ready to serve. Let it be with me just as you say."

Another translation puts it this way: "Behold, the bondslave of the Lord; may it be done to me according to your word" (nasb).

The Greek word for "bondslave" is doulos or doule (feminine form) and means "one who gives himself up to the will of another, without any idea of bondage." In the Old Testament it referred to a slave set free who chose to stay with his master for the rest of his life. In the New Testament, it was used figuratively of a Christian set free from the slavery of sin who chose to serve his master, Jesus, for the rest of his life.

Here's what happened next:

At that time Mary got ready and hurried to a town in the hill country of Judea, where she entered Zechariah's home and greeted Elizabeth. When Elizabeth heard Mary's greeting, the baby leaped in her womb, and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit. In a loud voice she exclaimed: "Blessed are you among women and blessed is the child you will bear! But why am I so favored, that the mother of my Lord should come to me? As soon as the sound of your greeting reached my ears, the baby in my womb leaped for joy."
- Luke 1:39-44

At God's prompting, Elizabeth joined Mary on the stage, grabbed her by the hand, and joined her on the journey to fulfill an extraordinary purpose. But this was not simply a supporting role. She was a leading lady in her own right.

Elizabeth was more than an incubator for the forerunner of Jesus, John the Baptist. She was a prophet who God chose to mentor the mother of His child. Elizabeth's grasp of the situation was remarkable! She understood that Mary was carrying the Messiah when even those closest to Jesus in future years would not.

And why was that? It is simple, really. It was not because Elizabeth was especially smart. It is because the illuminating power of the Holy Spirit revealed it to her. And that is the same with you and with me. We understand spiritual truth only when the Holy Spirit opens our eyes to see.

Isn't it wonderful that God created women for relationship? He knew that Mary was going to need a friend - a girlfriend. God is always with us, but sometimes He gives us like-minded friends with whom to walk the journey.

Let's Pray

Lord, thank You for girlfriends. I am so thankful that You have not called us to walk through life alone, but arm-in-arm with friends. Show me someone who needs an extra hug, a word of encouragement, or a helping hand today. May I be as free with my words of praise as Elizabeth was with hers.
In Jesus' Name,
Amen.

Now It's Your Turn

  • Why do you think God sent Mary to Elizabeth?
  • What do you think Mary did during her time with Elizabeth?
  • What did she get to experience before she returned home?
  • How would this have been helpful during her time of delivery in the stable?

From the Editor:

Today's devotion was taken from the book, 'What God Really Thinks about Women: Finding Your Significance Through the Women Jesus Encountered' by Sharon Jaynes. This book goes through every encounter Jesus had with a woman in the New Testament, and shows how he broke a rule every time, just to show them they mattered. He risked his reputation to save theirs. Read their encounters and see yourself through Jesus' eyes.

Source: Girlfriends in God - Devotional

Go to God - Hannah's Tearful Prayer
 
She, greatly distressed, prayed to the Lord and wept bitterly.
-1 Samuel 1:10

If man had written the Bible without God's inspiration, he would have placed the people found there on pedestals and edited the script to remove all of their mistakes, sins, and failures. But God, the Master Artist, paints the heroes of the Bible with realistic brush strokes.

God records the whole story of these men and women—"warts" and all; He records their triumphs and also their tears. There are no perfect people parading across the pages of Scripture—there are real people with real problems.

There was an article in Newsweek written by a woman who had been the editor for a publisher producing self-help books. She wrote:

You might expect that people who work for authors and bosses of such a company would, in general, be terribly well-adjusted folks—on a first name basis with all their feelings; bursting with self-esteem; free of type-A stress, phobias, and anxieties. Think again. The bosses are even now beginning construction on a second story for our building because the office manager and the head of typesetting cannot stand working in the same room together. One of the executive staff routinely gets so upset during phone calls that he falls out of his chair onto the floor.

Two in-house authors of a book on stress are on the verge of suing each other. Our best-selling book on phobias and fears is lacking an author cover photo because—you guessed it—the author has a phobia about having his picture taken!

This is true not only in the secular world but in the sacred world as well. We are all made of clay! If anyone ever gives you the impression that he has it all together, you need to look again . . . or just quit looking.

Hannah was unable to have children; she also suffered the indignity of the mocking of her husband's other wife Peninnah, who was able to bear children. This added insult to injury! It would be unbiblical to say that Hannah, this great woman of faith, was not affected by this situation—she was miserable.

I Samuel 1:8-9 says, "Elkanah her husband said to her, 'Hannah, why do you weep and why do you not eat and why is your heart sad? Am I not better to you than ten sons?' Then Hannah rose after eating and drinking in Shiloh. Now Eli the priest was sitting on the seat by the doorpost of the temple of the LORD."

And here comes Hannah's flood of tears!

You may have had times like this: tears bathing your cheeks and washing your soul. But the wonderful thing in verse 10 is that Hannah poured out her soul to the Lord. She went to Him, not away from Him, in the time of her deepest sorrow.

Your heartaches are God's concern; your burdens are His to bear for you. You can take comfort in the knowledge that "casting all your anxiety on Him, because He cares for you," your heart will be eased (1 Peter 5:7). "God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble" (Psalm 46:1). Never forget that God is your greatest source of help; of strength; of comfort; of refuge.

What is it in your life that causes great distress? What causes you to weep bitterly? Whatever the reason, follow Hannah's example . . . go to God.

Prayer Point:

Take time to pray to God, using real words about real things. Don't just utter the spiritual words that you think you should say—talk to your heavenly Father about your struggles; your feelings; your desires; your failures. Ask Him to help you trust His provision for your need.

Extra Refreshment:

Read Hannah's prayer of exaltation in 1 Samuel 2:1-10, expressing her understanding of God's power.

Source: A Wisdom Retreat

What Do You See? (Judging Others)

by John O'Leary, www.risingabove.com

"Judging a person does not define who they are. It defines who you are."

I've discovered that some of the greatest life lessons are taught in the least likely of places. Last week was another great reminder of that truth.

Monday was jam-packed. It included an early morning flight, long drive and delivering four speeches to youth during the day and delivering one at a community event that night. The great lesson I learned, came the following day.

Tuesday began with an early morning session for teachers and staff, a 30-minute break and then speaking to 500 4th and 5th graders.

During my break, Mary asked if I would be willing to speak to her students on persistence. She shared it was a wonderful group who needed some encouragement.

So I followed Mary quickly up a flight of stairs, down a hallway, into a classroom and entered into the lives of 20 little ones with special needs. They were on their exercise mats getting ready to begin their day with mindfulness, stretching and yoga.

The teacher began by having us shut our eyes and focusing on our breathing. In. And out. In. And out.

Then we rocked out some yoga.

I've never done yoga, but I'm willing to bet recommended attire does not include dress shoes, suit pants and a jacket!

After our yoga, Mary explained that I had a story to share. I stood, introduced myself and started by asking if anyone saw anything that made me look different than them. Expecting the little ones to talk about my hands or scars, I wasn't ready for the list they provided!

The first little man stood and said, "I know." Yes, go ahead. "We are all young and you have gray hair." Yes, that's true. Thank you. What else?

"You're wearing a suit." Good. Good. That's true, too.

"You're sweaty." Yes, good...I am! Mr. John is not used to yoga!

My friends, the point is they never got to my hands or scars. These great little ones didn't see them as different. You see, they know already what the rest of us (me in particular) need to learn: Judging another person does not define who they are. It defines who we are. [Tweet this.]

This month we are reflecting on the theme "victor v. victim." What my little friends showed me so clearly is that sometimes we don't realize we are thinking of ourselves as victims. My challenge to you today is to NOT let your limiting beliefs corner you into being a victim.

When you look at your challenges, opportunities, others and life today: what will you see?

Look for beauty within all of it. Be open to the innumerable lessons that others have to teach you. Choose not to judge. And if you are looking for me in yoga pants you'll be looking a long, long time!

Copyright © 2014 Rising Above, All rights reserved.

God Looks Beyond the Surface

by Joel Osteen

Today's Scripture

The LORD does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart.
- 1 Samuel 16:7, NIV.

Today's Word

Your Creator can see things in you that other people cannot see. Sometimes people will try to push you down or make you feel insignificant. Sometimes our own thoughts will try to convince us that we don't measure up. But God looks beyond the surface, beyond the mistakes you've made, beyond what somebody said about you and sees your incredible value. You may think, "Joel, I've messed up. I have blown it. I have failed. I'm all washed up." No, God still sees more in you. God doesn't just see what you are; He sees what you can become. You may have made some mistakes, but God still sees victory on the inside of you. People may have tried to push you down, but God sees you rising higher.

Now, you've got to do your part and get rid of those condemning thoughts. Get rid of what somebody has spoken over you and start renewing your mind. Down deep, start believing that you are redeemed, restored, talented and valuable. Even if you have made mistakes, believe that there is more in store. God's not finished with you. He looks beyond the surface and sees your potential. Stay in step with Him and watch His plan for your life unfold.

A Prayer for Today

Father, thank You for looking beyond the surface and seeing the real me. Thank You for placing Your potential on the inside of me. Help me to know You more and see You more clearly so I can follow Your ways all the days of my life in Jesus' name. Amen.

Family Special: How to Keep Your Relationship Pure

by Ann Marie Williams

Why do we keep making the same mistakes? How do I stay pure with all of today's modern pressures? In reality, it boils down to two main concepts:

Lead Us Not into Temptation

Remember that line from the Our Father? It doesn't say "lead us not into sin" but "lead us not into temptation." See, we aren't called merely to stay away from sin; we are called to avoid temptation. To do otherwise is asking for trouble.

Imagine you are watching TV and a news alert flashes across the screen: "Rabid dogs loose in your neighborhood. Do not go near them." You warn your younger sister, who is home, about the dogs. Then you open your windows, garage door, front door, back door, doggy door, and the skylight on the roof. True, the dogs might not enter your house right away, but there's a pretty good chance that eventually they will. Once they're in your house they might not injure anyone. But if you love your sister - and yourself - why would you take that chance?

The same concept applies to a dating or courting relationship. Sitting together cuddled up in a dark room on a comfy couch, alone, for hours on end, is placing you both in temptation's way. Likewise deciding to place yourselves in a situation where you have been previously tempted or amorous is also irresponsible. Why would you place the one you love in the near occasion of sin? As disciples of Christ, we are called to stay away from not just sin itself but from temptation. We should strive to remain pure of heart (What is your intention in this relationship?), pure of mind (keep your thoughts chaste and do not dwell on activities that belong only in marriage) and pure of action (refrain from anything sexual in nature, or actions that create sexual arousal).

Battle of the Wills

"My boyfriend said he would leave me if I didn't give in." "We got lost in the passion." "My teammates said I wasn't 'man enough' if we didn't." "I wasn't thinking." Do any of these excuses sound familiar? They have one thing in common: "It's not my fault". Well, I hate to break it to you, but unless a crime was committed, at least 50 percent of the blame is yours. Of course, remember, if you have messed up, you can go to confession and start over with a clean slate and a pure soul.

No one can make you to do anything you don't want to. Not your boyfriend, girlfriend, hormones, classmates, teammates, buddies, society, anyone. Sin comes down to one person: you. In the end we will be held accountable for what we choose and don't choose. You can make the change, you can make the effort, you can prove your love through your actions and inaction. Will there be those around you who laugh at, scorn and belittle you? If so, remember, they don't have your best interest in mind. Your focus is discerning marriage which means doing what is spiritually best for yourself and the person you are dating- in other words, loving her the way Christ loves us. Is this easy? No. Love, the way Christ intended it, is not easy, but it is eternally rewarding - and there are no regrets.

Tips to Remember

1 Pray individually and as a couple for purity, fortitude, courage and discernment. Put Christ into your relationship. In fact, Christ should be present in all your relationships.

2 Be honest with yourself and with one another about what makes purity difficult, and avoid those situations, places, actions, ways of dress, etc. Do not try to find loopholes but strive to preserve the purity of one another. This will foster selflessness, communication, and Christ-like love.

3 Decide together, prayerfully on limits of physical affection. Ask a trusted friend to hold you accountable. Satan is full of ingenious lies, and accountability combats many of them.

4 Purity begins in the mind, so it is crucial to guard your thoughts. Remember what Christ said: "You have heard that it was said, 'You shall not commit adultery.' But I say to you, everyone who looks at a woman with lust has already committed adultery with her in his heart" (Matt. 5:28) We are bombarded with impure language and images whether on the radio or billboards or in movies or magazines- so it is no wonder we have difficulty keeping our thoughts pure. The fewer of these lyrics, images and movie scenes you consume, the easier purity of mind will be.

5 Don't spend copious amounts of time alone together; hang out with friends and family. After all, you should be discerning whether the person you are dating is the one you want to marry, so it's important to get to know his friends and family. We often put our best foot forward in relationships, but it is difficult to hide our true nature around friends, family, and especially siblings. It would be wise to ensure that the time you do spend alone is spent in public places.

6 If your family and friends who truly love you have reservations about the person you are dating, you should consider their concerns. They may see red flags you have missed.

7 Have fun, be silly, get to know one another, and don't do just the romantic dating thing. If you're hoping the person you're dating will be your spouse, then fostering a solid friendship is even more important than romance. The honeymoon stage of a marriage doesn't last, so when the real world settles in, you need a foundation of more than just romance and chemistry to get you through.

About The Author:

Ann Marie Williams is a sales and marketing representative for Catholic Answers. The second of eight children, she was born in Fort Wayne, Indiana. Ann Marie started researching Catholic teaching on chastity while in high school, and has developed a love of spreading the message. She graduated from the University of La Verne in 2013 with a Communications degree.

Source: chastity.com

About Malankara World
With over 6000 articles and hundreds of links to outside resources covering all aspects of Syriac Orthodoxy that are of interest to Family, Malankara World is the premier source for information for Malankara Diaspora. In addition to articles on spirituality, faith, sacraments, sermons, devotionals, etc., Malankara World also has many general interest articles, health tips, Food and Cooking, Virtual Travel, and Family Specific articles. Please visit Malankara World by clicking here or cut and paste the link on your browser: http://www.MalankaraWorld.com/Library/default.htm

Malankara World Journal Subscription

If you are not receiving Malankara World Journal directly, you may sign up to receive it via email free of cost. Please click here: http://www.MalankaraWorld.com/Library/Register/news_regn.asp

You can contact us via email at mail@malankaraworld.com

Malankara World Journal Archives

Previous Issues of Malankara World Journal can be read from the archives here.

You can contact us via email at mail@malankaraworld.com

Thank you for your help and support.

Malankara World Team

Malankara World Journal is published by MalankaraWorld.com http://www.MalankaraWorld.com/
Copyright © 2011-2014 Malankara World. All Rights Reserved.