Lent + the Annunciation

We're three weeks into the forty-day season of Lent and, if you're anything like me, you're also fumbling toward a new normal amid the disruptions brought by COVID-19. We've been observing our chosen practices of fasting, prayer, and almsgiving and we've also been reminded how important these practices are in a world that can change so greatly so quickly. We've approached these practices in love as they are meant to be borne of love, and we've experienced grief and uncertainty, too—and a keen awareness of our fragility, our dependence, even our very mortality. 

We're quiet and reflective, now, as we continue to make space in our lives and hearts to receive the Paschal mystery—the sacrifice and resurrection of God's own and only son.

It seems we've never needed it more.

Suddenly, into this quiet, sober, uncertain season, comes the Annunciation—the audacious and incomprehensible good news of God made flesh and born into this very world among us, incarnate and dwelling in our midst. The timing of this feast day on March 25—in the middle of this season in our lives and the church year—feels just as audacious, just as incomprehensible, and just as needful.

The Annunciation of the Lord, which we'll celebrate on Wednesday, commemorates the visit of the angel Gabriel to the Virgin Mary, during which he announced she would be the mother of Jesus. Not only does this feast day forecast Jesus’ birth at Christmas—but it also reminds us of the interwoven and continuous cycle of time we're invited to join in the liturgical year.

It's not a coincidence that we remember the falling of the Holy Spirit upon Mary at the same time we are falling to our knees over a world that can only be made right through Jesus' death and resurrection.

It's no accident that we honor the divine seed planted in a human womb while branches are beginning to bud and blooms are beginning to burst forth from earth that appeared forsaken just weeks ago.

It's not mere biology that dictates the date of the Annunciation must fall nine months before the celebration of Christmas. And it's more than just the days on the calendar that brings us March 25 (with its reminder) just now, when we seem to need it the most.

Though we find ourselves in the midst of death, surrounded by our ashes, new life is already bursting forth. Though we are just beginning our work of grief and repentance, the Kingdom of God is already rushing in to interrupt us—with Good News so great that the stars must sing and the rocks cry out. Though we face uncertain times and unprecedented circumstances, God is already—and always—working resurrection in this world and in our lives.

This is who God is. This is how God meets us.

In our midst.

So next Wednesday, as we pause for the Annunciation, let us break our fast and feast on this knowledge. May we know, as George MacDonald wrote, that good is coming to us—"that good is always coming; though few have at all times the simplicity and the courage to believe it." 

May we be fortified to enter the heaviness of Holy Week and the changing rhythms of our daily lives with the knowledge that there will be darkness, yes.

But then, oh, then—what light!

Alongside you,