Advent 4 – The Annunciation

Here is Sunday's sermon

A few months ago, I was waiting to begin Evensong and my attention was drawn by two children. They had been cycling on small bikes outside, watched by their father. Can we come in, they asked. Of course I said, and beckoned them all in. The father introduced himself as a member of Carrington Street mosque and explained that he liked his children to be inquisitive and to know all about other religions. Did I mind them having a look around.

Of course I didn’t.

They came in and were wide eyed. Compared to the rather plain walls of the mosque, all this must have come as something of a surprise.

The younger of the two children caught sight of something, behind me and squealed in delight. Look, Look, she cried to her brother, and pointed away up high to the mural above the High Altar.
She led me carefully by the hand so that I could see it and said, “Do you know who that is?”

I nodded and said, “Well, I think so.”

Its Jibreel, she cried. Jibreel and Miriam!

The story that Luke paints of the annunciation has been taken by us and made into something rather lovely, but at whatever level we read it, it must have been quite scary for the recipient.

Many people have had a go at painting the annunciation since, but the picture that Luke paints shows Mirium (or Mary as we know her better) portrayed as minding her own business when suddenly she is confronted. Confronted with the news from Jibreel (or Gabiel as we know him better) that our business is God’s business. Confronted with the news that God wanted to join in with Mary’s own life. Confronted with the news that God was interested, intimately interested in what was going on, on the earth.

And Mary said yes.

It cannot have been easy to say Yes to Gabriel and it cannot have been easy to say yes to God, yet from somewhere deep inside, this young woman managed to summon up the courage to say – Yes, be it unto me according to your word.
Even the most protestant minded amongst us seem to want to take a new look at Mary when Christmastime comes around. Who was this extraordinary woman who said yes to God, who joined in with God’s plan to come and walk with us and who ultimately was to know such sorrow in her life?

Mary was a simple Jewish girl and yet is now revered by both Moslems and Christian’s alike as the one who conspired with God to make it all happen. Mary is someone whose position in God’s plan of salvation is fascinating. Not that much is known about her yet what we do know is all significant.

One thing is certain though – this young woman was no plaster saint or stained glass window. Often churches have representations of Mary which seem to show a rather frail individual – someone who was rather passive in the story. Yet I don’t think that Mary was like that. Mary was someone who sang the songs of freedom. Mary was someone who knew the joy of giving birth to a saviour but also the pain of seeing him die. Mary was the one who said yes to God and went on saying yes all through her life.

We all know that it takes 9 months to make a baby, but how long did it take to make this baby?

It isn’t a trick question. How long did God take to make this baby? If we look back into the Hebrew scriptures it can seem as though God was brooding on the possibility for centuries before suddenly coming to be amongst us.
David’s notion to build a house for God was surely a pure one yet it seems as though it wasn’t quite what God wanted. Rulers always seem to want to build grand houses for their divinities, as though by building the house, they can install God at home and only deal with God when they want to. Yes, we can see right back to this reading from the second book of Samuel to see a God who did not really want to be installed anywhere. The God whom we worship seems always to have wanted to be out and about amongst the people sharing in their concerns, sharing in their sorrows, sharing in all their hope and sharing in their dreams.
And one of the dreams that God seems to have begun long ago was the dream to come amongst us – to be one of us. And that was part of the message to David. No, God would not come and live in any house that David could build for him. No, the house that the Lord would inhabit would be made of living flesh and blood – living stones built through the years – the house of David. And in the end, it was to this house of David that the Lord would come. Announced by Jibreel, Gabriel the messenger. This is the house, the place where God would come and get involved once and for all.

The time was 2000 years ago, the place was Nazareth, the person was Mary and she said yes.

The time is now. The place is a house of God named after Miriam – St Mary’s Cathedral. Now today, the message is the same, but you are the person. What do you say.

For the truth is, that Gabriel announces that the Lord is coming to each of us. There is something very special about Mary. The something that is very special is that she is one of us. The something very special about her is that she is an ordinary simple village girl.

Mary is one of us. The extraordinary thing about her was that she said “Yes”.

Gabriel announced to Mary that God was interested in her world. I announce the same thing to you this day. God found in Mary a representative of a virgin world, a world waiting for God to come.
Perhaps we find ourselves in the same position as Mary this morning. We have heard the message – God wants to come to us. But what will we say.

What do we say to the Angel who comes amongst us and announces that we have found favour with God.

What do we say to the news that God is coming to dwell in us?

What do we say when we hear Mary saying “Yes to God”?

In the story that Luke told 2000 years ago, Mary said Yes to God.

The time is Christmas 2008, the place is St Mary’s Glasgow. And the message is exactly the same.
And Mary said Yes to God. What do you say?


  1. Elizabeth says

    I really love that opening story (well, the whole story really)!

  2. It has just struck me that the button I press to send in this post says ‘submit’ – the meaning of the word ‘Islam’ (submission).

    So Mary, too, practiced ‘islam’ in her response to Gabriel. No doubt the children knew this already.

    And now I must, too.

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