Saturday, March 25, 2006

Annunciation

Isaiah 7:10-14; Psalm 40:1-11; Hebrews 10:5-10; Luke 1:26-38

The season of spring officially began just a few days ago, but we in the South are always blessed with early blossoms, whispers of pink and white and purple and green when many places are still deep in winter darkness. In the newly warm sun, those whispers grow into glorious shouts of color. I don’t know about you, but spring takes my breath away, and not just because the air is so full of pollen! Suddenly there is color in places where I forgot it would be: in the corner of a yard, on the side of the road, in the woods beside my neighbor’s house, outside my office window. Breathtaking.

The season of Lent officially began three weeks ago – we are just a little more than halfway through on our journey to the cross. But deep in this Lenten darkness is something quite unexpected, a breathtaking scene of an angel, an invitation, and a young girl who said yes, Here I am, the servant of the Lord; let it be with me according to your word.

Yesterday was March 25th, nine months to the day before Christmas. It was the Feast of the Annunciation, the day when heaven and earth mingled in Mary’s yes, when suddenly there was life in a place where no one – least of all Mary – imagined it could be. The life she bore was as new as that spring morning, and yet was the very Creator of every spring that ever was. Literally full of grace, Mary became Theotokos, which is Greek for God-bearer.

How often in her life would Mary’s breath leave her body as she wondered if she had made the right choice? Mary’s yes would have certainly cost her marriage, perhaps even her life, had Joseph not had his own breathtaking encounter with an angel. When they brought their newborn to the temple, Simeon would tell Mary that a sword would one day pierce her heart. They thought they lost Jesus when he was still a boy, and when, breathless with worry, they finally found him, he told them their house was not his home. And how the air itself must have trembled as Mary watched her child one colorless spring morning, watched him bear his cross and die.

Being a God-bearer, it seems, does not make life easy or vanish pain. But Gabriel’s words always echoed in Mary’s pierced and wondering heart – Favored One, he had said, Favored One, God is with you. And so, though it made her tremble, Mary whispered yes again and again.

Deep in the darkness of Gethsemane, Jesus, too, would say (was it because he was the Son of God, or because he was Mary’s son, had heard her say yes, here I am all those years)…deep in the darkness of Gethsemane, Jesus would say to God, Not my will but yours be done. Let it be with me according to your word….Heaven and earth mingled in Jesus’ yes, and in his last breath he gave himself and us to God.

But death would not be the final word. For three days later, God shouted that glorious no!, Love would not be defeated. Love was stronger than fear, life stronger than death, and suddenly the risen Jesus is standing before us with a breathtaking invitation that we become God-bearers. You, favored one. You, full of grace. You, me, all of us, God-bearers.

Gerard Manley Hopkins wrote a poem comparing Mary to the air we breathe. “Wild air,” he wrote, “World-mothering air…of her flesh he took flesh: He does take…though much mystery how, not flesh but spirit now, and makes, O marvelous! new Nazareths in us, where she shall yet conceive Him, morning, noon, and eve….”

What a lovely annunciation, this time ours, our invitation to allow heaven and earth to mingle in us, to bear Christ in the world in our own unique and marvelous ways. The very air we breathe in this day is pregnant with Mary’s yes, spoken in wonder and courage and faith….

….Spoken also in that knowledge that saying yes to God does not make life easy or vanish pain. Our yes is spoken in a world seems to shout no. In the season of Lent, we are called to come to terms with all the times and ways we have said no to God’s invitation – our mistakes, our sins, our failures and fears and wounds, the ways we have been hurt and the ways we have hurt others. It is difficult to be a God-bearer when we are carrying these and so many other burdens. This is the work of Lent – truth-telling, repentance, forgiveness, healing. Trembling, we take all our no’s to the cross where Jesus, full of grace, replaces them with his perfect, forgiving, transforming Love, his eternal yes. That is the work of Easter.

We are invited to be God-bearers, to see Life in places where we forgot it would be, to show Love where no one – least of all, perhaps, ourselves – imagined it could be, to be the body of Christ in the world. In the 16th century, Teresa of Avila wrote, “Christ has no body now but ours, no hands, no feet on earth but ours. Ours are the eyes through which he looks compassion on this world. Ours are the feet with which he goes about doing good. Ours are the hands with which he blesses people.”

Take a deep breath. God, who loves us, is with us. Let us say together, yes. Amen.

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