It happened this year, and apparently it won’t happen again until the year 2157.
That’s the next time that the Feast of the Annunciation (March 25) and Good Friday coincide. It’s rare that the story of Mary visited by the angel Gabriel occurs on the same day when the story of Jesus’ death is told. Both stories need air-time, so in the wisdom of people in charge of calendar stuff, the observance of the Feast of the Annunciation was transferred to today, April 4.
This Monday morning, let’s see what the story of the Annunciation has to tell us to help us through today. It’s been beautifully rendered by artists over the centuries, with vivid imagination of what an angel might look like. Artists have also rendered Mary’s complicated reaction. For insight into that reaction, read the story in Luke 1:26-38. It says that when the angel showed up, Mary was much perplexed and pondered what sort of greeting this might be. No kidding. The angel tells her not to be afraid, a common reaction whenever one of these angels shows up. Easier said than done. Mary asks: “How can this be?” The angel tells her nothing will be impossible with God. And Mary responds with words that have inspired many (including Paul McCartney): “Here am I, the servant of the Lord, let it be with me according to your word.”
The story told in Luke’s gospel is one of many call stories in the scriptures. Like many other Bible characters who hear some sort of call, there is a sense that the person receiving the call might wonder whether the call is a wrong number. Moses did his best to weasel out of God’s call to confront Pharaoh, claiming he was no good at public speaking. Nice try. Samuel had to get the call three times before it sunk in. Isaiah said he was a person of unclean lips. Jeremiah said “I’m just a boy.” When called, Peter told Jesus to depart from him because he was a sinful man. You get the idea.
But there’s something about Mary. For all her pondering and perplexity, she says “yes” to God. A friend and fine preacher once offered a sermon in which she speculated on whether the angel visited other Nazareth girls first. She wondered if others said no, and so the angel moved on to the next house. Maybe that is what Mary models for us, amid the perplexity and fear, to say yes.
And make no mistake. Saying yes has its cost. I have two friends who are both professors who toured Europe with their 8 year old daughter. After visiting many churches and museums, the young girl wanted to know why Mary was never smiling. An astute observation, for the Annunciation foreshadows Good Friday. This year’s coincidence is no coincidence. In Luke 2, aged Simeon told young Mary: A sword will pierce your heart. There was cost with the promise.
But isn’t that the way it is in our lives. At all the crossroads, at every fork in the road, whenever we hear a call, or think we hear a call, there is cost and promise. That’s the message of the Annunciation. That’s the message of Good Friday. That’s a word for us this Monday morning. Can we say “yes” to what God is calling us to do and be, whether that’s a big task or, more likely, a small act of kindness, reflective of the grace we have received. Let it be.
The Collect for the Feast of the AnnunciationPour your grace into our hearts, O Lord, that we who have known the incarnation of your Son Jesus Christ, announced by an angel to the Virgin Mary, may by his cross and passion be brought to the glory of his resurrection; who lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.
The Song of Mary: The Magnificat (Luke 1:46-55)
My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord,
my spirit rejoices in God my Savior
for he has looked with favor on his lowly servant.
From this day all generations will call me blessed:
the Almighty has done great things for me,
and holy is his Name.
He has mercy on those who fear him
in every generation.
He has shown the strength of his arm,
he has scattered the proud in their conceit.
He has cast down the mighty from their thrones,
and has lifted up the lowly.
He has filled the hungry with good things,
and the rich he has sent away empty.
He has come to the help of his servant Israel
for he remembered his promise of mercy,
the promise he made to our fathers,
to Abraham and his children forever.
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