The Annunciation Sunday
26 In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God to a city of Galilee named Nazareth, 27 to a virgin betrothed[a] to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. And the virgin’s name was Mary.
Today is the 4th Sunday of Advent, and our Gospel text today is about what we call the Annunciation. Gabriel made the announcement of the LORD to Mary that she would conceive and bear a son.
Gabriel said, “Greetings, O favored one, the Lord is with you!”[b] Some manuscripts add this: Blessed are you among women!
And these words form the prayer of the Rosary, “Hail Mary, full of grace, the lord is with thee. Blessed art thou among women, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus.”
The second part of that is, “Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners, now and at the hour of our death.”
So rather than “praying to Mary” as some think, we are asking Mary to pray for us.
I love to pray the Rosary, so called because the rose is a symbol of Mary.
I pray the Rosary every night as I fall asleep. Sometimes I don’t get very far, other times I make it through all five decades.
Why is the blessed Virgin Mary so revered in our Anglo Catholic tradition?
We inherited the tradition from St. Dominic who lived between 1170 and 1221. He prayed to Our Lady for help in combatting heresy in the Church. He was given the words we now call the Rosary, and told to preach it among the faithful.
So, do we pray to Mary, as some of our Protestant brethren have asked me?
First lets define the term, to pray. It simply means to ask, to beg, or to plead for something from someone. I can pray to you for something I want. I prayed to Ashleigh to prepare a Lamb dish for us, twice. That was an answered prayer right there!
In the case of the Rosary, we ask Mary to pray to the Father for us. “Pray for us sinners, now, and at the hour of our death.” Is that so hard to understand?
What do we learn from this lesson about the Mother of God, the Mother of the Church, whom we revere as our own Mother? We learn about obedience and humility.
When Gabriel told her of the Father’s plan to conceive the Son of God within her, she accepted with grace; “Behold, I am the servant of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word.”
That is a good lesson for us, as well.
We are called to be obedient to the will of the LORD, and when we accept it with humility, we are blessed by him to be called his servant.
When Mary asked how this would happen, Gabriel answered her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born[d] will be called holy—the Son of God.”
We say this every Sunday in the Nicene Creed. “He (Jesus) was conceived by the Holy Spirit, and born of the Virgin Mary.”
It is at the core of Christian belief. The Incarnation of our Lord is what makes Christianity different from every other religion; “The Word of made flesh and dwelt among us.” That is what our own St. John the Divine wrote in his version of the Gospel.
No other religion makes this claim. Instead of us trying our entire lives to find God, He came down here to find us! He still finds us by the Holy Spirit who seeks us out to inhabit us with the Glory of the Father, because of the Son.
Tonight we will celebrate the Feast of the Incarnation, commonly known as Christmas (which is short for the Mass of Christ.)
“Fall on your knees, O hear the angel voices. O night divine, O night that Christ was born.”
An interesting bit of trivia is that in 1906, a chemist working for Thomas Edison, spoke the first ever radio broadcast from the Gospel of St. Luke, then picked up his violin and played the first song ever played on the radio, “O Holy Night.” The words were written by an atheist, and the tune was composed by a Jew for an opera singer named Emily Laurie.
It’s not in our hymnal, by the way. Some churches banned it because it was written by an atheist. It is in the latest Baptist hymnal, so it can’t be that bad!
I think it’s a lovely song, and it has been recorded by many modern artists, like Lauren Daigle, Mariah Carey, and Celine Dion. At the Christmas Eve Lessons and Carols, we will hear it again in our church.
O night divine, O night that Christ was born. O Come let us adore him.
In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.