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The Magazine of The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America

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Angels and answers

Ever thought what you would do if a fearsome angel suddenly showed up in your house? What if that angel asked you to do something completely unlikely? Sunday’s Gospel always intrigues me (Luke 1:26-38): “Do not be afraid,” the angel said to Mary.

C’mon, what do you mean, don’t be afraid? Of course Mary must have been afraid. And do you ever wonder if she struggled inside herself before answering, “Let it be with me according to your word”?

Many preachers and writers hold Mary up as a model of passivity. I don’t see her that way at all. I see her “yes” as an active—and brave—response to the God who created her and who loved her dearly. This was one gutsy move. At her young age, could she really have known the implications her answer to the angel’s question would have for her life? For her relationship with Joseph? For the child-raising that lay ahead? Just imagine. But she answered “yes.”

“You will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you will name him Jesus,” the angel told Mary, adding that this child would be given the throne of his ancestor David. This information established the child within a particular lineage. What was promised was now coming to pass. Mary was called to be the Christ-bearer.

We, too, are called to be Christ-bearers. We have been called by name and are loved by God (Isaiah 43). Can we answer the call, whatever shape that might take in our lives and our vocations, with a gutsy “yes” like Mary did? And can we remember that struggling with a response before answering “yes” is quite appropriate? In fact, it’s quite a sane response.

The God who calls us has claimed us. “I have called you by name, you are mine. ... You are precious in my sight, and honored, and I love you.” With that claim and that promise before us, we can do the impossible—for, as the angel told Mary, “Nothing will be impossible with God.”

As heirs of this God whose beloved we are and this Jesus whom Mary was called to mother, we all can carry out our mission: Marked with the cross of Christ forever, we are claimed, gathered and sent for the sake of the world.

(Solomonson also writes about being claimed by God in January's editorial, "‘I have called you by name’".)

This week's front page features:

The January issue of The Lutheran is now available online. However, we'll continue to feature some articles from our December issue on our front page until Christmas.

Only at Christmas: Through the barrier and checkpoints, Palestinian Lutherans struggle to maintain a sense of family. (Photo at right.)

Who will wear this shirt? Across the ELCA, the torch is passed to future leaders.

The magic of Narnia.

Faith is habit-forming: Practice the faith with children at church and home. (Discuss this article with its author, James F. Wright, today through Dec. 20 in The Lutheran's discussion forums.)

Church Council discusses maintaining trust.

Conference of International Black Lutherans: A broader interpretation of ecumenism.

ELCA pastor forgives man who killed her family.

This week in our discsussion forums:

Join James F. Wright, author of "Faith is habit-forming," and fellow readers of The Lutheran to discuss how children can participate in the worship life of their congregations.

Join the conversation already under way by posting your questions and responses through Dec. 20.

This week on our blog:

Amber Leberman blogs about the recent destruction of her grandmother's church in a fire.

Kathleen Kastilahn (right) writes about how garden clubs nationwide are donating trees and shrubs to communities along the Gulf Coast.

Sonia Solomonson writes about stopping to think about the soldiers and civilians represented by Iraq's death toll numbers.

Check out our blog (and leave a comment).

Looking for a speaker?

Is your congregation, synod or organization planning an event? Do you need a speaker? The staff members of The Lutheran would love to bring our perspectives to your organization.

We've traveled around the world, reporting on what's happening in the Lutheran church, and we keep our finger on the pulse of the ELCA in our daily work.

We've given sermons, participated in panels, led adult forums and prayer breakfasts, and given workshops.

Call us at (773) 380-2540 or e-mail us to find out how we might meet your needs.

Tell us! Where are they now?

It may be cold where you are, but The Lutheran staff is already thinking ahead to summer. And as you know, that’s reunion time. If there’s a person you’ve read about in The Lutheran and wonder where they are now, please let us know. We’ll try to track them down and give you an update. Think back, and then write us!

(Try to be as specific as possible—not just “Whatever happened to John, who I think I read about 10 years ago or so?" We’re a sharp staff but not clairvoyant.)

Send your requests by Jan. 31.

Your comments are welcome!

We'd love to hear what kinds of articles you like to read in this e-newsletter. Do you prefer reflections on the coming Sunday's lectionary, feature stories, first-person accounts or light and humorous pieces?

Is there someone we should ask to write a guest e-newsletter or a ministry we should feature?


Let us know. Send any comments about or suggestions for this e-newsletter to Amber Leberman.

Subscribe to The Lutheran magazine:

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For only $15.95 you'll receive 12 issues of The Lutheran magazine in your mailbox. You'll also receive back issues' articles since 1996 and unlimited study guide downloads (regularly $3.50 each) at www.thelutheran.org.

(Congregational subscriptions begin at $7.95 and include Web Standard memberships. Call Augsburg Fortress, Publishers, for details about our congregational plans. 1-800-328-4648.)

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December issue

DECEMBER issue:

Advent: Waiting together

More...