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The Feast of the Annunciation of Our Lord
St. Luke 1.26-38; Isaiah 7.10-14; Hebrews 10.4-10
25 March 2019
Rev. Jacob Sutton, Pastor
+ In the Name of Jesus +
If art is any indication of the importance of any mystery of our faith, then the mystery we celebrate today is extremely important. Indeed, it is quite difficult to walk into any art museum that houses any religious art without seeing some representation of the Annunciation. The annunciations was a notable part of the collection I viewed years ago at the Cloisters Museum in Manhattan, which houses the world’s leading collection of ecclesiastical art collected by the Rockefeller family.
So many of history’s greatest classical artists – Giotto, Da Vinci, Lippi, Fra Angelico, Titian, Botticelli, van Eyck, Caravaggio, and so many others – have depicted this most famous of meetings between the Archangel Gabriel and the Virgin Mary in art. Perhaps the Annunciation has been a favorite subject of artists because of the drama of it all. Imagine: the salvation of all of humanity coming from heaven to claim His humanity in a lowly, teenaged virgin!
Every year, I show a book to our catechumens when we discuss the Annunciation and our Lord’s incarnation during Catechesis upon the Second Article of the Apostle’s Creed. Painting after painting in my book, “Gospel Figures In Art”, shows the same thing: The angel Gabriel, the Virgin Mary, and in some form a ray of light from the Father in heaven, and a dove signifying the Holy Spirit, and the Words coming from the angel’s mouth, and all of these are aimed right at blessed Mary’s ear.
The Word of God is preached into Mary’s ear by the angel, and in her womb, she conceives a baby, with the aid of no man – not by human flesh or blood, by the Spirit of our God, was the Word of God made flesh, woman’s offspring, pure and fresh. The sermon the painters of the Annunciation preach is an idea Dr. Luther often preached – that Mary conceived Jesus “in her ear” by the Holy Spirit. He must have seen all those paintings too.
But today is not just a day to talk about or to draw a lovely picture of a great and mysterious miracle. There is a purpose to it, a point. Eve has the promised Seed. By the Holy Seed in her womb, the Blessed Virgin Mary found favor with God, as does all humanity with her. For all, like Eve and her daughter Mary many years later, who have willingly set their hope upon Christ, today is a day to celebrate and give thanks to God. And at this wonder, we do well to bow the knee in deep reverence and humility that our Lord chose such a birth. For our Lord willingly took up human flesh into His divinity, in order to redeem it, in order to redeem Eve, and Mary, and Adam, and you, and me.
For Eve and all her sons and daughters are fallen and need to be redeemed. The primeval virgin Eve, who, keeping holiday alone in paradise, with thoughtless mind, listened uncritically to the word of the serpent, the author of all evil, and thus became depraved in the thoughts of her mind; and through her that deceiver, discharged his poison and death with it, brought it into the whole world; and in virtue of this has arisen all the trouble of all mankind since, all the trouble and heartache and fears and griefs that arise in your life come because of that fateful hour.
But by what is conceived by grace in the holy Virgin at another, holy time, so is the fall of that first mother repaired.
So fear not, Mary, and Eve, and all fallen children of man, for you have found favor with God. Today, you hear of things kept hidden from the patriarchs and prophets. Today, you have learned things which were kept concealed from the angels, things of which even the choir of inspired men was never deemed worthy like Moses, and David, and Isaiah, and Daniel, and all the prophets, all who prophesied of that promised Seed; but the manner of His blessed coming, they knew not, they could not see.
In the pure virgin, the answer to the hopes and fears of all the years pitched His tent among us. “Do not be afraid Mary… for behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call His name Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. And the Lord God will give to him the throne of His father David, and He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of His kingdom there will be no end.”
Mary indeed was the servant of the Lord, according to the word of the angel. In nine months, we celebrate another event in the life of Christ which we know all too well, and so do the artists. She wrapped in swaddling-clothes Him who is covered with light as with a garment. She wrapped in swaddling-clothes Him who made every creature. She laid in a manger Him who sits above the cherubim, and is praised by myriads of angels. In the manger set apart for the dumb beasts the Word of God reposed, in order that He might impart to men saving wisdom from on high. In the board from which sheep and cattle eat was laid the heavenly Bread, in order that He might provide saving sustenance for His flock.
For Him, we remember and for His blessed mother, there was no room in the inn. He, who by His word established heaven and earth, found no place; for though He was rich, for our sakes He became poor, and chose extreme humiliation on behalf of the salvation of our nature, in His inherent goodness toward us. He who upheld heaven and all the universe in the bosom of the Father, and yet would for us men and for our salvation come down in the cave in the arms of the lowly mother, and lie in the manger. But there, as one angel came to Mary, so the myriad host of angelic choirs encircled Him, proclaiming Him savior of all, singing of glory in heaven and of peace upon earth, a peace to be wrought with His Father in heaven at the cost of His broken body and shed blood.
Wondrous birth! O wondrous Child
Of the Virgin undefiled!
Though by all the world disowned,
Still to be in heaven enthroned.
To Him who redeemed our humanity by becoming our blood and flesh brother, be glory, honor, and power, together with the Father and the Holy Spirit, now and ever, and unto the ages of the ages. Amen.