Back on the feast of Epiphany we remembered the visit of the magi to the Holy Family, and the gifts they bring: Gold for the king, Frankincense for the priest, Myrrh for the sacrifice. There is, I submit, one more gift - for us to offer: Praise for the Living One.
Right in the middle of Lent we encounter a part of the Nativity story, nine months before Christmas Day. Raymond Brown, the Roman Catholic biblical scholar, taught that the gospels actually were written beginning with the passion narrative - proceeding through Holy Week, the Passion, the Resurrection, the Ascension, and then on around to the Birth narratives.
The birth narratives begin with the visit of the angel to Zechariah, announcing the coming birth of John. Then the focus shifts to a younger woman, cousin of Elizabeth. It is Mary. The angel comes to Mary – and hails her as full of grace: she is to bear a son, who is to be the Messiah.
Mary accepts the burden of birth and the destiny of motherhood to the Messiah, Conception to Assumption, somehow knowing that she must not count her child as hers to keep, but must let go of him, dedicate him to the Lord, as Samuel's mother Hannah dedicated him, knowing he will go from her.
Mary, mother of Jesus, takes this task on herself, knowingly, as God's servant, because she knew that he, her child to be, was sent to set the people free: that at last God's promise to redeem Israel would bear fruit in the fullness of time, and that that fulfillment was coming very soon, and was beginning to happen, quickening even now in her.
The Word would indeed ripen in her own womb. She would bear forth upon the world he who would himself bear the pain of the world.
Like Hannah's son Samuel, Jesus the Son of Mary is one consecrated, set apart for service to the Lord, as a thanksgiving offering to the Lord. Samuel is the prophet who brought justice to Israel, and yet he points beyond himself - to Saul, first, then to David, to David's son Solomon, and ultimately to Jesus.
In the birth story of Samuel, Hannah his mother rejoices that God has remembered the forgotten, and will bring relief to the poor. “My heart exults in the Lord; my strength is exalted in my God,” she sings (1 Samuel 2:1-10).
In the birth story of Jesus, Mary his mother rejoices that God remembers the forgotten and brings relief to the poor. (Luke 1:46-55) And in our prayers, even daily, we join in her song, the Magnificat, the Song of Mary, Canticle 15 in the Book of Common Prayer: “My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior...”
Anunciation 2012 (March 25)