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Introduction to the Annunciation

Luke 1:26-38

The great thing about stories, is that they don’t have to be literal to be deeply true. They invite us to imagine ourselves into them…Let’s do that as we listen to Mary’s story. Imagine this young woman, probably in her mid teens. She must have been terrified when that angel visited her, with the invitation to bear a Holy Child. She wasn’t yet married. She had plans for her life.
Imagine the conversation with her parents. Honestly dad, it was an angel!.….Hmmmm Imagine that family scene. What would Joseph her betrothed think? In Matthew, we are told that Joseph did not believe her. but that he was going to do the honourable thing. He would cut off the engagement quietly and not demand that his honour be recompensed with her stoning or some other humiliating punishment. It was only through the wisdom of a dream that Joseph was able to stand by Mary, I wonder what that must have done to their relationship longterm. He had been willing to get rid of her.

And then there would be the small town gossip mill! What happened to Mary’s mother and sisters and brothers when they walked through the town?

What could be more embarrassing than finding yourself pregnant with the Holy Spirit? It is a very eccentric, inconvenient thing to have happen! Bearing seed of God can be a messy, unsettling business.

Mary resists, naturally enough, when she is told that she will be with child of God.
Most of us resist invitations that will turn our lives upside down; at least at first.
Mary fears “ What can this possibly mean ? I am disturbed!
Angelic voice speaks the holy message uttered since the beginning. “Don’t be afraid. Don’t be afraid. Don’t be afraid…. With God nothing is impossible!”

Mary,
Nazareth girl
What did you know of ethereal beings
with messages from God?
What did you know of men
when you found yourself with child?
What did you know of babies
you barely out of childhood yourself?
God chosen girl:
What did you know of God
that brought you to this stable
blessed among women?
Could it be that you have been ready
waiting
listening
for the footsteps
of an angel?
Could it be that there are messages for us
if we have the faith to listen? ( Ann Weems)

SCRIPTURE:

OTHER PAGE
Prayer: Holy One, Disturbing, Strengthening One
Remind us of times when your Spirit has broken in to our lives
when an invitation to bear new life has come to us….
the birth of a child; the beginning of a new career;
making a new beginning in our lives….
reinventing life after retirement, or the death of a partner;

Remind us of all of the feelings connected with these unsettling experiences.
Holy One, be with those who have life change thrust upon them;
and with those who choose change.
In your wisdom connect us with our power to choose
so that like Mary, our yes may be truly yes, and our no be truly no.
that we may touch with dignity
and love with integrity
and know the freedom of our own choosing all our days.

Be with those who journey into new beginnings Be with all who struggle with the meaning of major decisions in their lives
When we are afraid that we can never do what you ask of us, may we be filled with the knowing that with You all things are possible.
May the healing, encouraging, wise voice of angels guide us into new life. Amen

MUSIC Mary Woman of Promise #16 v 1,2,3

THE VISITATION:
Introduction:
Mary does what many young women in circumstances of finding themselves “inconveniently” pregnant have done. She leaves town and is sent to a relative…. Perhaps to protect the honour of her family. Perhaps to give them and Joseph time to settle down, to come up with a story to tell the neighbours, to adjust to the “circumstances”.

Mary must have been very frightened and felt so alone as she faced the birth of this first child, with it would seem not a lot of support. She needed to be with someone who understood how she felt. She needed to be with an older woman. Scripture tells us that she stayed with Elizabeth for three months, most likely until John was born. She must have learned a lot about pregnancy, and birthing, and nursing, during this time. She also was given support to strengthen her at a time of crisis, so that in three months, she was able to return home and deal with what met her there.

Scripture:
Prayer: Holy One;
We remember with thanksgiving those who have supported us in times of crisis in our lives
those who have shared our journey,
listened to our stories
offered their experience and wisdom
We pray that all whose lives are turned upside down, might have a safe place to go…a relative, a friend, a transition house….where they might sort out the meaning of what is happening to them and make decisions that are wise.
We thank you for the accompaniers
the journey sharers,
those who help us believe in our promise
and in your promise through us.
Hymn: She Walked in the Summer #12

The Magnificat
With support from her cousin Elizabeth, she began to integrate the meaning of this birth. Resistant hope rose in the core of her being and she came to see that this birth would change more than her. She remembered God acting in the history of her people in life-changing ways. She sang this song of high revolt into the heart of her unborn child.

Mary, probably with Elizabeth’s help, goes back to her roots in the Hebrew tradition, to Hannah, another woman who had dealt with childbirth in unusual circumstances. What we call the Magnificat, Mary’s Song, shows a self understanding very much in that context. She sings of the upside-down making God who scatters the proud, who brings the mighty down from their thrones, who lifts up the lowly and fills the hungry with good things. What a powerful song Mary sang! What a powerful song Jesus lived, it is a song that is still changing the world. Bruce Larson wrote that the words of the song Mary sang are
“. . . the most revolutionary words ever spoken. Through the Messiah, the mighty will be brought low; the humble, the lowly, will be exalted. Jesus, completely reverses all human values. We may attempt to spiritualize these words, but deep down we all know that Jesus has come to instigate the kind of revolution we need.”

Scripture: Luke 1:46-56
It seems this new birth is not just about a cuddly baby. Incarnation was, and is a powerful force for changing the world in very concrete ways. It changes how we think about our own embodiment, and it changes how we feel about worth and power in the life of the world.

Prayer:
Holy One: We listen for this song of justice and transformation
in the lives of all who continue to follow Christ.
We remember times, when like Mary we have felt blessed
We remember times when like Mary we have come to affirm
that God is doing great things for us.
We remember times when we have danced and sung with the utter joy of knowing that we are in the right place at the right time.
Bless us and disturb us God
with that vision of your kingdom,
and as we voice our hopes to you now
may they strengthen us
reassure us….move us.

Into the mess of this world a fragile child will come
yelling in the night for his mother
needing milk and clean linen
We pin our hopes on you little baby,
Our God
pushed out into the world
through pain and poverty
Our God with us, in whom our hope is reborn.

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