“Greetings, favored one!”

a sermon, based on Luke 1.26-38, preached with the people of Epiphany Episcopal Church, Laurens, SC, on the 4th Sunday of Advent, December 24, 2017

Reading again and reflecting anew on this story, commonly called the Annunciation, I think about our life’s stories, and I see in Mary a model for us of how to face the many sorts of announcements that come to us. Each of the following announcements, I either have experienced or, through nearly forty years of pastoral ministry, I have heard from the lips of others about their lives…

An executor of an estate announces that you are the beneficiary of the generous bequest of a loved one. An IRS agent announces you are the subject of an audit…

An employer announces that you have been promoted with increased responsibility and recompense or you have been transferred or discharged…

A partner or spouse arrives home announcing a new job opportunity requiring a reconfiguration of family finances or a geographical move…

A partner, spouse, or long-lived friend announces a change in your relationship – a greater connectedness or distance…

A therapist announces the next step in your hard-fought, long-sought journey toward wholeness…

A physician announces that your medical condition or that of a loved one has improved or has worsened.

Each of these annunciation experiences, desired or undesired, raises the specter of the unfamiliar, the uncertain, making it sometimes hard to know what to do. Mary, again, as a model for us, shows us how to be in the moment, listening, waiting for a clarifying revelation.

The Annunciation (1898), Henry Ossawa Tanner (1859-1937)

Gabriel appears. “Greetings, favored one! The Lord is with you.” Though Mary is familiar with the lore of her people Israel about how God speaks through angelic messengers, she has heard no such word. Now, she has and she is perplexed.

“Do not be afraid, for you have found favor with God.” Mary would conceive and bear a son, Jesus, who would reign on the throne of David in an everlasting kingdom. For an oppressed people in an occupied land overrun by the Roman Empire, this is a thrilling word of hope, fulfilling an age-old prophecy of liberation.

But Mary is a virgin, thus, Gabriel’s message abounds with logical and biological impossibilities. “How can this be?”

“The Holy Spirit will come upon you.” Then Gabriel offers an anticipatory sign, a revelation concerning Elizabeth, who “also conceived…(although she) was said to be barren; for nothing (is) impossible with God.”

“Here I am…let it be with me according to your word.” Mary’s assent is no docile denial of her own will in the face of divine fiat. (Verily, I believe if the only answer Mary can give is “yes” and, thus, she is not granted the freedom to say “no”, then her “yes” wouldn’t be true.) Hers is the “yes” of faith; her conscious acceptance of a new thing, literally, a new creation and with it, a new meaning of and for her life.

The Annunciation. A story of the announcement of the coming of salvation within human history. A story about Mary and her embrace, verily, her embodiment of that divine Word.

Many are the announcements that come to us. May we, like Mary, remain present in the moment, listening, waiting for a clarifying revelation. For even, perhaps especially in the most unlikely, undesirable circumstances, we never can know when an angel may appear calling to us, “Greetings, favored one!”, calling us to bear the life of Jesus in the wombs of our souls, calling us, through our response, to bring the life of Jesus more greatly into the world.

 

Illustration: The Annunciation (1898), Henry Ossawa Tanner (1859-1937). Note: I love Tanner’s depiction of The Annunciation – the muted earth tones of the room, for me, expressive of groundedness in the reality of time and space and of the moment of divine-human encounter, Mary, with her hands-clasped prayerful posture, looking upward with patient expectation, and Gabriel, not portrayed in human form, but rather as the pure light of heavenly illumination.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

waiting for Jesus – an Advent-season-prayer-a-day, Day 22 (and final), the Fourth Sunday of Advent, December 24, 2017

Note: Advent, from the Latin, adventus, “coming”, is the Christian season of preparation for Jesus’ birth, the heart of the Christmas celebration, and, according to scripture and the Christian creeds, his second appearance on some future, unknown day and also according to scripture and Christian tradition, his daily coming through the Holy Spirit. Hence, the theme of waiting for Jesus is Advent’s clarion call.

O Lord Jesus, I wait this day and all days for the wonder of Your Waiting; You Whose tolerance in the timing of Your second coming is meant, I believe…I know to allow me to repent.(1)

O Lord Jesus, ever regarding Your patience as salvation,(2) may I not…make me not resist the loving labor of Your Spirit in bringing me to peace with You that I, this day and alway, may…will rejoice to behold Your appearing.

Amen.

 

Footnotes:
(1) See Romans 2.4
(2) See 2 Peter 3.15

waiting for Jesus – an Advent-season-prayer-a-day, Day 21, Saturday, December 23, 2017

Note: Advent, from the Latin, adventus, “coming”, is the Christian season of preparation for Jesus’ birth, the heart of the Christmas celebration, and, according to scripture and the Christian creeds, his second appearance on some future, unknown day and also according to scripture and Christian tradition, his daily coming through the Holy Spirit. Hence, the theme of waiting for Jesus is Advent’s clarion call.

O Lord Jesus, I wait this day for the wonder of Your Wholeness; You in Whom “the fullness of the deity dwells bodily.”(1)

Though made in the imago Dei, I, in my sinfulness and sins, my scattered thoughts and feelings, my self-centered intentions and actions, sully the glorious semblance of divinity in which I have been created.

O Lord Jesus, by Your Spirit, I pray You refashion my mind and my heart, my soul and my spirit, my being entire that Your Apostle’s word may be true for me, will be true in me; that I come to the measure of Your full stature.(2)

Amen.

 

Footnotes:
(1) Colossians 2.9
(2) Ephesians 4.13

waiting for Jesus – an Advent-season-prayer-a-day, Day 20, Friday, December 22, 2017

Note: Advent, from the Latin, adventus, “coming”, is the Christian season of preparation for Jesus’ birth, the heart of the Christmas celebration, and, according to scripture and the Christian creeds, his second appearance on some future, unknown day and also according to scripture and Christian tradition, his daily coming through the Holy Spirit. Hence, the theme of waiting for Jesus is Advent’s clarion call.

O Lord Jesus, I wait this day for the wonder of Your Worship.

Thus, You spake to Photina,(1) the Samaritan woman at the well: “The hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshippers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father seeks such as these to worship Him.(2)

O Lord Jesus, by Your Spirit, let my worship of You ne’er be tied to time or bound to space or place. Rather let my prayers, verily, my being of adoration and praise and confession and thanksgiving and petition and intercession and oblation be every word of my mouth and every deed of my doing that I may be…that I will be wholly Yours. Amen.

 

Footnotes:
(1) As I noted previously (waiting for Jesus – an Advent-season-prayer-a-day, Day 8, the Second Sunday of Advent, December 10, 2017), though Scripture gives no name to the Samaritan woman who encountered Jesus at the well (John 4.5-42), Eastern Orthodox tradition calls her Photina (or Photine), from the Greek, phos, “light”, meaning, “the enlightened one”; for she, in her testimony to her fellow Samaritans, led many to believe in Jesus as “the Savior of the world” (John 4.39).
(2) John 4.23

waiting for Jesus – an Advent-season-prayer-a-day, Day 19, Thursday, December 21, 2017

Note: Advent, from the Latin, adventus, “coming”, is the Christian season of preparation for Jesus’ birth, the heart of the Christmas celebration, and, according to scripture and the Christian creeds, his second appearance on some future, unknown day and also according to scripture and Christian tradition, his daily coming through the Holy Spirit. Hence, the theme of waiting for Jesus is Advent’s clarion call.

O Lord Jesus, I wait this day, the Feast of St. Thomas the Apostle, for the wonder, again, of Your Weal.(1)

Thomas dared to doubt the testimony of his brother and sister disciples, who, beholding Your resurrected glory, proclaimed, “We have seen the Lord!” Thomas dared to profess, “Unless I see the mark of the nails in his hands, and put my finger in the mark of the nails and my hand in his side, I will not believe.”(2) Yet, when confronted by Your appearing, Thomas, needing neither to put his finger in the mark of the nails nor his hand in Your side, dared to confess, “My Lord and my God!”(3)

O Lord Jesus, by Your Spirit, make me bold in my doubt that I, trusting in Your appearing may…will deepen in faith. Amen.

 

Footnotes:
(1) See my previous posts regarding Weal: waiting for Jesus – an Advent-season-prayer-a-day, Day 11, Wednesday, December 13, 2017 and waiting for Jesus – an Advent-season-prayer-a-day, Day 16, Wednesday, December 18, 2017
(2) John 20.25
(3) John 20.28

waiting for Jesus – an Advent-season-prayer-a-day, Day 18, Wednesday, December 20, 2017

Note: Advent, from the Latin, adventus, “coming”, is the Christian season of preparation for Jesus’ birth, the heart of the Christmas celebration, and, according to scripture and the Christian creeds, his second appearance on some future, unknown day and also according to scripture and Christian tradition, his daily coming through the Holy Spirit. Hence, the theme of waiting for Jesus is Advent’s clarion call.

O Lord Jesus, I wait this day for the wonder of Your Wonder; that is, Your holiness, again!(1)

God spake unto His servant, saying, “Moses! Moses!” further saying, “Come no closer! Remove the sandals from your feet, for the place on which you are standing is holy ground” and Moses hid his face, for he was afraid to look at God.(2) Yet You, O Lord Jesus, in the flesh of Your incarnate divinity, hath brought God near, yea, verily, face to face.

O Lord Jesus, by Your Spirit, may I, without fear, behold Your holiness in every face of family and friend and stranger, of women and men and girls and boys, of aged and young, of gay and lesbian and transgender, of rich and poor, of well and infirm, and, on some day and at some times, perhaps the hardest for me, in the mirror.

Amen.

 

Footnotes:
(1) See my post of yesterday regarding Wonder: waiting for Jesus – an Advent-season-prayer-a-day, Day 17, Wednesday, December 19, 2017
(2) See Exodus 3.5-6

waiting for Jesus – an Advent-season-prayer-a-day, Day 17, Tuesday, December 19, 2017

Note: Advent, from the Latin, adventus, “coming”, is the Christian season of preparation for Jesus’ birth, the heart of the Christmas celebration, and, according to scripture and the Christian creeds, his second appearance on some future, unknown day and also according to scripture and Christian tradition, his daily coming through the Holy Spirit. Hence, the theme of waiting for Jesus is Advent’s clarion call.

O Lord Jesus, I wait this day for the wonder of Your Wonder; that is, Your holiness.

Moses beheld the bush that blazed, but was not burned. Yet only when he turned aside to look at this great sight did God speak unto him, saying, “Moses! Moses!”(1)

I wonder, O Lord Jesus, You Who in Your incarnate divinity already hath made Your holy Otherness another-ness with us, where and when and how do You appear, reaching across the chasm between heaven and earth? By faith, yes, I trust that You do, yet I must ask where and when and how and how many times have I missed You; for I, too busy in my thoughts and deeds, too blind of sight, too blunt of mind, failed to turn aside to look?

O Lord Jesus, by Your Spirit, open my mind, quicken my heart, stir my soul, startle my spirit that I may not…that I will not miss You again. Amen.

 

Footnote:
(1) See Exodus 3.1-4