Summary: ANNUNCIATION, YEAR C - The Coming of Christ
British sculptor Sir Jacob Epstein was once visited in his studio by the eminent author and fellow Briton, George Bernard Shaw. Noticing a huge block of stone standing in one corner Shaw asked what it was for. “I don’t know yet. I’m still making plans,” replied Epstein. Shaw was astounded. “You mean you plan your work. Why, I change my mind several times a day!” “That’s all very well with a four-ounce manuscript,” replied the sculptor, “but not with a four-ton block of stone.”
Each and every one of us when given the very same task will probably complete that task
differently. When it comes to preaching Rosemary plans out every word for her sermons. I like to let my sermon flow. Sometimes I don’t even know where or how a sermon will end when I begins to preach on Sunday morning. Yet God mysteriously uses both to make his word known. The all powerful God of creation uses very human people to bring about his will. It is not a question of how we do the tasks God has given us, but whether we are willing to be used by God in the midst of all our doing?
A young woman, just entering her teens, is confronted by heavenly messanger who says, “Hail, O favored one, the Lord is with you.” It’s a strange scene to be sure. How well thought out is this plan of God’s? Doesn’t it seem rather preposterous? Does it strike you as ludicrous that God’s plan of salvation should depend upon the willingness of a young woman living in an obscure village of a remote province? Does it strike you as foolhardy that God’s plan of salvation would depend on one woman’s trust in a message that tells her God wants her to conceive a child? Does it strike you as at all odd that Mary’s response was to ask the bewildered question: "How shall this be?" It’s not the plan anyone would have imagined. We know about Rome; we even know about Jerusalem; but what and where is Nazareth? We know about Augustus Caesar. We even know about old King David of ancient Israel. But who are this Mary and this Joseph? They are nobody special from nowhere in particular. Why they’re no more important than you or me!
And that is exactly the point. God acts through ordinary human beings, like you and me ordinary human beings, that trust God enough to undertake extraordinary missions beyond their capabilities or imaginings. But we don’t want God to act this way. We want God to appear in person unmediated by anyone else even by angels as awesome and terrifying as Gabriel. But that is not how God does things - is it? God seldom comes to us directly except in the person of Jesus of Nazareth and even then it is only as God incarnate, mediated through human flesh and being, for which he was criticized for being a nobody himself.
God always comes to us through creation. Through the water of baptism. Through the bread and wine of the Holy Communion. Through the hand of a loved one, or through the hand of a stranger. Mostly, God comes to us in ordinary ways, through ordinary people. It is even true in the case we have this morning. Although God chooses the extraordinary means of sending the Archangel Gabriel, God still announces that the divine plan for our salvation is to come to us through the body of a peasant girl from Nazareth. Of course this plan will work only if she is willing for it be so; only if she can find the courage to surrender to God’s will; only if she can find the faith she needs to trust God’s preposterous plan. What a weight hangs in the balance there. What immensity depends on the faith of a young peasant woman? What tremendous mystery waits upon her answer, hangs upon her word. And what trust God must have in her. And why would God trust a maiden such as Mary? Because Mary has lived her life in the community of people who believe that there is a special relationship between God and them. They have affirmed that the word of God is for them, that the action of God in the world is, for us, them. They believe that their story, the story of this community, day in and day out, through slavery, wilderness, kingdoms, and exile, is the story of God working through them to accomplish His
divine purpose on earth. And so we learn in this story of Mary
That God is trusting God’s people to have raised Mary in the right way, to have taught her the story of faith, to have taught her to recognize God’s hand at work in her life. Gabriel has made the proposition. The great archangel has announced God’s purpose, the heavenly messenger has posed the question and the girl clearly is troubled. Now heaven and earth wait. But Mary doesn’t understand what is going on; the angel’s reply to her question, "How shall this be?" is a mystery. Gabriel only assures Mary that God will overshadow her in the Holy Spirit. Mary is afraid. We can sense the dismay of her soul. Not the horror that comes from being in the presence of evil but the kind of awe-full terror that comes from being in God’s presence from hearing God’s call for your life. And yet, she still surrenders her assured future as the wife of a carpenter named Joseph to play the unknowable part God wills for her as Mother of our Savior. And so I ask you, beloved, how many times must we hear this basic Gospel truth to learn it? We have been waiting for so long for God’s presence in our lives. We have sung many hymns praying for the advent of