Audacious Announcements and Pregnant Possibilities

By Sharron R. Blezard, December 13, 2016

Narrative Lectionary Reflection for the Fourth Sunday of Advent, Year 3

December 18, 2016

Lessons: Luke 1:26-45 (46-56); Psalm 113 or 113:9

Theme: God’s faithful and generous people listen for God’s call, follow and serve, and believe that nothing is impossible–including faithful stewardship of God’s abundant gifts.

Key Scripture: ” . . . 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. Luke 1:37-38

Preaching/Teaching Reflection

img_0001This past weekend I had the opportunity to visit the National Gallery in London, and I found myself standing for a long time in front of Francois Lemoyne’s painting, The Annunciation (1727). Hundreds of paintings of this biblical event have been painted, so it’s not an unusual subject per se. Yet I found myself drawn to Lemoyne’s version and drinking in the stunning colors, the use of light, and the virgin Mary’s placid and beatific face. A young virile Gabriel hovers above her, his right forefinger pointing to heaven, his left hand extended palm down toward earth. Three cherubs are suspended behind Gabriel’s upstretched arm. Above Gabriel’s left shoulder, light from heaven (Holy Spirit?) shines down, illuminating Mary’s face. It is a calm and slightly disaffected scene–beautiful, yet not as chaotic as I might envision the event. There are signs of everyday life, a basket with linens, a dropped manuscript, a prayer stand, tiled floor. These signs of the ordinary are contrasted with the smoky clouds, angels, and light, always the divine light. It’s not clear at what point in Luke’s gospel we happen to be eavesdropping through Lemoyne’s brush strokes. There is no fear, no confusion, not even a hint of wonderment about what is happening or has happened.

Granted, this painting reflects a distinct style, a particular time, and a specific approach to religious art, but I still found myself saying “Really? Is this how it went down?” One must also get beyond the obvious French features and skin tones and economic markers, but still the silence of this painting was perhaps most disquieting to me. I guess I just don’t expect much about God breaking into our human world to be so serene.

In response to her questions about how it’s going to come for her to be with child, Gabriel reminds Mary that “nothing will be impossible with God.” According to what we have in Luke’s gospel, that was a good enough explanation for this young woman who will bear God in the flesh. I admire Mary’s faith. I am humbled by her acceptance and her willingness to go with the flow and let God’s will guide her entire future. I suspect if the angel had appeared to me at that age I would have had lot more questions for good old Gabe once I finished picking my jaw up off the ground. But then perhaps I wouldn’t have. Maybe, just maybe, I would have been stunned into acceptance and wonder myself. I don’t know. God didn’t choose me to be the Theotokos.

But wait! Aren’t we all called as Christians to bear Christ into the world? Perhaps there is something in this announcement, this annunciation, that applies to all of us in 2016 and in all times and places. Yes, we are most certainly not the blessed mother of God, but we are all of us God-bearers in a way. We walk alongside Mary, pondering the announcement of how God works through ordinary and often unlikely folk, trying our best to trust that indeed with God Mary by Pontomroall things are possible. The annunciation, this unlikely announcement that God chose to come to us in human form through a young virgin girl, to enter into the mess, the beauty, the joy, and ultimately the pain of our creatureliness, is one that is indeed pregnant with possibility and aching to be born anew through our sharing of this good news.

We can give thanks for Mary, whose faith was such that she could embrace God’s will for her life and for all of us. And, we can give thanks that we, too, have a part to play in announcing Christ’s birth, in bearing Christ to the world, and in participating with our Lord in the restoration of God’s design for creation.

Consider extending the lesson this week to include the Magnificat, Mary’s powerful, counter-cultural song of praise and wonder. Sing it in worship. Invite congregants to contemplate the words. Focus on Elizabeth for a few minutes and how God removed the stigma of barrenness from her, using her aging body to bring John into the world. This week is also a chance to celebrate the integral role of women in Good News.

Yes, dear preachers and teachers, this day is pregnant with possibility. Don’t be shy. Take the hint from Mary and sing out that Good News of Christ’s coming for all to hear. Our God has done, is doing, and will continue to do great things.

In Worship
Consider singing “Canticle of the Turning.” Include a series of banners or projected images from the Magnificat that help congregants to see and imagine God’s action on behalf of both the faithful and the marginalized. Lift up the role of women by including as many women and girls in worship leadership as possible this week.

With Youth
Consider Mary’s Magnificat with your youth. How is the song of this young girl such a powerful and faithful statement of powerful faith and trust in God? How could this young girl stand in the face of empire, of her family’s potential disapproval, and her betrothed beloved’s possible scorn? What kind of faith does that take? How can we live with and in that faith in the light of God’s promise to us in Jesus Christ? Consider having your youth either write their own song of praise to God, or if there is time, invite your youth to create a video illustrating the Magnificat for today.

With Children
A Very BIG Announcement
Have you heard the camp Announcement Song? If not, check out this YouTube video. Teach it to the children and tell them that announcements shouldn’t be useless or boring. Share with them that the angel Gabriel brought a very BIG announcement to a young girl in Nazareth over 1,000 years ago. She would bring Jesus into the world, God’s son and our savior. Consider singing a “revised” version of the first part of the song like this:

Announcement! Announcement! Announcement!
We’ve a really big one to share,
A really big one to share!
Baby Jesus is born in Bethlehem
Get ready to tell and share!

Finish with a simple prayer.
Weekly Stewardship Bulletin Insert
We are stewards of the mysteries of God; in fact, we bear the Good News of Jesus to the world. This work is entrusted to our hands, our voices, and our resources. Every day can potentially be an opportunity to be a faithful steward of this Good News. How will you steward the mysteries of Christ this week?
Stewardship at Home
Consider using “The Canticle of the Turning” in your devotions at home this week. We as God’s faithful people and careful stewards live in that pregnant hope that indeed the world is about to turn and we are part of its turning. Consider one simple action each day, based on Mary’s Magnificat, that you can take to help the world turn toward Christ’s reign and restoration of creation.

Photos: Mary-Constance, sblezard, and carumare, Creative Commons. Thanks!)

Note: Reprint rights granted to congregations and other church organizations for local, nonprofit use. Just include this note: “Copyright (c) 2016, Rev. Sharron Blezard. Used by Permission.” Other uses, please inquire:

About the Author

The Rev. Sharron Riessinger Blezard is an ELCA pastor currently rostered in the Lower Susquehanna Synod. She came to ordained ministry after teaching secondary and college English, working in non-profit management and public relations, and moonlighting as a freelance writer. See more posts by .

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