Have you started your Christmas shopping yet? Just kidding....don't send me angry emails. Yesterday, March 25th, was the Feast of the Annunciation. You know what that means...yep...9 months from now all the Christmas presents you haven't bought yet will be unwrapped and piled up in a corner or already in need of a good laundering or ready to be taken to the vet! (That last party might not just apply to clothing or Christmas pets either!)
The Church recognizes March 25th as the day that Mary began her amazing, weird, beautiful, difficult, miraculous journey toward delivering the baby Jesus. I love that the Church marks such a thing. Of course we cannot know for sure when (and some would argue if) any of these remarkable events take place. There's no incontrovertible evidence that Jesus was born on December 25th. The whole Christmas season as we know it gets developed LONG after the time of Jesus and was in many ways about taking over a pagan winter solstice festival...but I digress. And who knows if Jesus was a "full term" baby! We are presuming so which means March 25th to December 25th.
In the season leading up to Christmas Eve, the season of Advent, we get the reading about the angel Gabriel appearing to Mary on that last Sunday of Advent. Then a few days later it's Christmas Eve and we have a sweet little pageant with small children in bathrobes and tinsel halos and a plastic baby Jesus doll held...depending on who Mary is that year....with varying degrees of tenderness. Sometimes the young actor carries the Jesus doll down the aisle by its hair...and sometimes the Mary child holds that doll like it is truly her precious baby. So given that most of us don't hear the Annunciation reading from Scripture until just a few days before Christmas eve, it is easy to forget that the very real, very young girl most likely had to spend more than a few days pregnant!
From my friends and family members who have been pregnant I know that the time of gestation feels both long and short. I know women get exhausted and elated, have trouble getting comfortable enough to sleep, and sometimes lack energy to do anything but sleep. It's a roller coaster of joy and anxiety, expectation and worry...and that's under the best of circumstances! Factor in a young unmarried girl in a time and place when unmarried pregnant girls could be stoned and that is one wild ride of a pregnancy!
It's a perfect reminder here in the season of Lent...a perfect metaphor for our journey of faith in this Holy season and beyond. The nurture of faith, like the nurture of a growing fetus takes time...a lot of time. I am, perhaps like some of you, impatient. I too live in an email/microwave/text messaging culture (although that text messaging business doesn't look too cool or go very quickly when I have to put my readers on to see the tiny little screen with those tiny little letters).
I love that right smack in these final days of Lent we read about the Angel Gabriel's wild announcement to Mary. In my head I hear that cartoon screech sound like when Bugs Bunny or some other character slides to a halt and sparks fly out from his feet. And after the initial shock of " O M G!! I'll have to buy Christmas presents again"...I take a deep breath and think for a while about the daily preparation that Mary had to make. One day at a time...morning sickness..growing belly...whispers around the village....Joseph standing by her...one day at a time the Blessed child grew and grew inside of her. And we too are called...one day at a time...one day at a time to nurture God within us... to nurture our faith bit by bit. Some days we may find ourselves nauseous all day...some days we have energy and excitement and can't stop smiling...some days we cannot rest for all the turmoil in our minds and bodies...some days we wonder if we can go on. All of that...all of that bit by bit moving us deeper and deeper into a life with God. Deeper and deeper to that which we too shall birth one day.
May you find peace in this season and every season, Rhoda