St. James the Less Episcopal, Ashland, VA
Pour 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 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 has remembered his promise of mercy,
The promise he made to our fathers, *
to Abraham and his children for ever.
Glory to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit: *
as it was in the beginning, is now, and will be for ever. Amen.
In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent by God to a town in Galilee called Nazareth, to a virgin engaged to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. The virgin's name was Mary. And he came to her and said, "Greetings, favored one! The Lord is with you." But she was much perplexed by his words and pondered what sort of greeting this might be. The angel said to her, "Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. And now, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you will name him Jesus. He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Most High, and the Lord God will give to him the throne of his ancestor David. He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end." Mary said to the angel, "How can this be, since I am a virgin?" The angel said to her, "The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be holy; he will be called Son of God. And now, your relative Elizabeth in her old age has also conceived a son; and this is the sixth month for her who was said to be barren. For nothing will be impossible with God." Then Mary said, "Here am I, the servant of the Lord; let it be with me according to your word." Then the angel departed from her.
Today I will be short. But it is a simple message.
Today is the Annunciation of our Lord Jesus Christ to the Blessed Virgin Mary. Why today? It is nine months before Christmas. Let that sink in. Both for yourself, and for Mary. Once the Church set the Feast Day of the Christ Mass, they did the math. We could get nit-picky about what day it is, but far more important than the when is the what and the why.
Mary was chosen. She was the one selected to bear the Messiah, the Anointed One. As is said in the prayer, “Blessed art thou among women, and the fruit of thy womb, Jesus.” But her response could have been the monkeywrench in the gears. She could have said, “No.” Thanks be to God that she didn’t.
In my discernment retreats with the Diocese, one of the first things we talk about is God’s Call on our lives. We all have the chance to say yes to God. There are general calls to be obedient, devout, and upstanding people. But we also have specific calls. The people on the retreats I guide are asking if God is calling them to the ministry in the Episcopal Church. It could be something as simple as when we see someone and a little voice in our head prompts us to a kindness that may not make sense to us, but it makes sense to God, and the Holy Spirit gives us a nudge.
When we hear those calls, it behooves us to say yes. YES, YES, YES, YES, YES. Can we say no? Of course. But I think on the times I threw up excuses, or walked away. Those, looking back, are some of my deepest regrets. Hindsight is 20/20 they say. I know that to be true.
So, like the Blessed Virgin Mary, it is so necessary to say yes with our words and deeds. Like Mary we can proclaim, “My soul proclaims the Greatness of the Lord!”
Two more sidenotes. Tucked away in Gabriel’s message is a word for all of us, especially in these days. “For nothing will be impossible with God.” Claim that one, especially in these days. Today many Christians around the world are praying with Pope Francis the prayer Jesus taught us, the Our Father. Will it make a difference? Anytime a billion or more people focus their energies, how could it not? We will see.
Lastly, when I say Yes to God, there is a flip side. God has said Yes to me. God sees the person that God created and sees a need I am uniquely qualified to fulfill. Like with Mary, God says Yes to Us. In closing, I read this beautiful poem, “Annunciation” by Marie Howe.
Even if I don’t see it again—nor ever feel itI know it is—and that if once it hailed meit ever does—And so it is myself I want to turn in that directionnot as towards a place, but it was a tiltingwithin myself,as one turns a mirror to flash the light to whereit isn’t—I was blinded like that—and swamin what shone at meonly able to endure it by being no one and sospecifically myself I thought I’d diefrom being loved like that.
[Close with Sting’s Gabriel’s Message]