When Something's Lost and Something's Gained...
So that’s it for 2020, a year in which I learned all about ZOOM, publishing on YouTube and the delights of walking, and praying, in the light of the dawn. The year in which I realised how important hugs are and how much they would be missed. And, a year when morning prayer at 9 on ZOOM would unite elements of congregations from not only the five Redruth Churches but from across the diocese as we were joined by numerous Readers.
Relationships have taken a hot this year where meeting online has not been appropriate and as T.S.Eliot said, “We die to each other daily. What we know of other people is only our memory of the moments during which we knew them. And they have changed since then. To pretend that they and we are the same is a useful and convenient social convention which must sometimes be broken.”
When we have all had our vaccinations and we kick-start the activities we have put on hold things will be different and my hope is that we can rebuild the relationships and do the activities better, shedding those that we have found we have not really missed!
‘The Lord is with you . . . do not be afraid’.
A Meditation on the Annunciation, Luke 1:26–38
Luke’s account of the Annunciation is one of the most frequently illustrated stories in the Bible. We’ve all seen pictures of the angel Gabriel, with his great wings, announcing to Mary that she has been chosen to give birth to Jesus. I’d like to take just a few moments to meditate on how Luke describes the scene to us – to try to enter into the story imaginatively, and to ask what it might have to offer us in our own lives as Christians.
The story opens with God sending Gabriel to a specific place, and to a specific person. The place is Nazareth, a small town in Galilee. What’s special about Nazareth? Nothing at all. It is not a great city like Jerusalem, where all the rich and powerful people live, with a Temple and other important buildings. And what’s special about Mary? Nothing at all. She’s a young peasant girl, still a virgin though she is engaged to be married to a local carpenter. Mary is just an ordinary person – not someone living in high society. And yet – God chooses her to be the vessel through which his son Jesus Christ will enter the world. Isn’t that a thought worth pondering?
What does Gabriel say to Mary? He greets her warmly, telling her she is ‘favoured’ and that ‘The Lord is with you’. This is far from the kind of greeting Mary would have expected, and it startles her. She wonders what it could possibly mean, but says nothing. Perhaps a look of fear crossed her face, because Gabriel tells her not to be afraid: she has indeed found favour with God. She is going to give birth to a son and is to call him Jesus. He describes this child in amazing terms: he is to be God’s own son; he will be given the throne of his ancestor David; and he will reign over Israel for ever. What Gabriel is telling Mary is that she will give birth to the long-awaited Messiah, a figure she would have heard about from readings of the prophets in the synagogue.
Mary’s initial reaction is a completely down-to-earth one. ‘It is impossible for me to have a child. I’ve never slept with a man – I’m a virgin!’ Her consternation is easy to imagine. Can this angel really be serious? Mary is no shy, demure little bride-to-be. She knows a thing or two – including that you have to have sexual intercourse to get pregnant. Gabriel patiently explains to her how this will all happen. The Holy Spirit will conceive the baby in Mary’s womb by the power of God himself, so that the son she will bear will indeed be the Son of God. God can make this happen – even Mary’s cousin Elizabeth has become pregnant in her old age. Nothing is impossible with God.
How, finally, does Mary respond to this announcement by Gabriel? She submits completely to God’s calling. ‘Here am I, the servant of the Lord; let it be with me according to your word.’ Mary hears the word of God; she believes it; and she says ‘yes’ to God’s love and his purpose for her. Perhaps there are times when we feel ourselves called by God to do something that we think must be impossible. When we have our doubts and uncertainties about how to respond, we might remember those words spoken to Mary: ‘The Lord is with you . . . do not be afraid’.
This is a picture of the chapel in Iona- I still hope to get there one day but plans to travel have been demolished for various reasons over the last few years – maybe 2022!!
One of the strangest things in 2020 has been my lack of contact with schools and indeed children! I started at school in 1956 and have been in an educational environment up until March this year. The last decade has been mostly in school governance and story telling in nursery but I was in school several times week. Consequently my thoughts are with teachers and especially head teachers who are under enormous stress.
The meme above seems to sum it up for me. If you have ever worked in a primary school you do not underestimate the value of a wet paper towel in healing. However- I am praying for some divine help here!