The Annunciation is a marvel to me. As it should be, I suppose. You see, unlike so many women who hoot and holler with joy at the news of a pregnancy, I have received my own “mini annunciations” with tremendous trepidation.
The Annunciation and Trust Within Pregnancy
It has literally taken days for me to wrap my head around the news of each of my pregnancies. Not because I am not excited. Certainly not because I don’t appreciate the wonder of new life. But because at that point, I come to the very raw acceptance that whatever comes next, I will see it through to the end.
The one unknown I’m confident in is that I am not the author of this story. Those pink lines signal that, on some level, I am ready to hand over control and accept whatever comes with this new life. And if I’m honest, that is where my confidence has teetered—at the very moment my heart has most desired safety, security, and stability.
- Will the baby be healthy?
- Will he or she make it full term?
- Will there be complications?
- Will the world be kind to him or her?
- How might his or her needs alter the course of life as I know it?
Enter teenage Mary.
Then the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. Behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall name him Jesus. He will be great and will be called Son of the Most High, and the Lord God will give him the throne of David his father, and he will rule over the house of Jacob forever, and of his Kingdom there will be no end.” But Mary said to the angel, “How can this be, since I have no relations with a man?” And the angel said to her in reply, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. Therefore the child to be born will be called holy, the Son of God.”
I’d like to imagine that my questions stem, in some way, from the wisdom in the exchange between Mary and Gabriel. These are the kinds of questions one who’s heard Mary’s story asks with an awareness that one little “yes” at a time has the potential to turn our world on its head.
I believe this world-shifting perspective is so often the nourishment we need for our (occasionally short-sighted) journeys. And yet, in that promise of provision and nourishment lies the promise that these little fiats will also lead to piercing, poking, and prodding of the very heart from which this love comes.
Be It Done to Me
So, on one hand, I appreciate Mary’s “yes” as a courageous example of trust when my own confidence has failed me. Particularly given the scandalous nature of her circumstances, the angel’s assurance that her child would indeed be different, and a hope that her betrothed would understand, she had every reason to be concerned. And yet, she wasn’t.
Mary said, “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord. May it be done to me according to your word.”
On the other hand, I picture John Collier’s depiction of the Annunciation. Young Mary is on her front porch after school doing homework, wearing saddle shoes and looking about as surprised as I have felt myself by the news of new life (only, with a great deal more reason to be).
Maybe this head-scratching announcement is how you’ve come to know annunciations, too. Maybe you had given up hope for a baby, or expected your child-bearing years were over, or found yourself pregnant with no husband, or thought you timed it differently…And yet, this unexpected calling is inviting you to bear something new to the world.
Giving Our Fiats
Mary has long been called the Theotokos which means “God-bearer.” I love this name for Mary. She models perfectly what it looks like to bear Christ to the world. She is an inspiration to us who are looking for ways to bring Christ to a weary and worn world.
Without question, Mary’s call as Jesus’ mother was unique and unrepeatable, but her witness as a Christian—and particularly as a woman—has a deeper invitation to each of us. We are invited to be bearers of Christ in all the ways in which we are in the world. We bring to birth the works of our souls, whether they be books, art, babies, lesson plans, garden patches, vocations, songs, or city planning. All of these have the capacity to convey Christ to the farthest imaginable corners.
By its very nature, the Annunciation models at least two important truths. First, we may not feel equipped for the task before us to which we have been invited. Second, despite this reality, our little yeses to Christ are borne into the world in unimaginable ways.
What have been some unexpected annunciations in your life? What happened when you gave your “yes”?
Katie Cassady is a wife and mom to two little girls in Denver, CO. Steeped in theological reflection, beekeeping and motherhood, she is appreciative of any and all wisdom she can glean from those living intentional lives of faith. Find out more about her here.