"Yet Another Interruption"

For many, COVID has been one grand interruption! We were working and worshiping. studying and serving, building and buying … and then everything ground to a halt. And when things were stopped, all we could dream of was getting back to normal, getting back to working and worshiping. studying and serving, building and buying.

But the annunciation teaches us that some interruptions don’t work like that.

The disciples examine the fresh wounds on Jesus's body after the resurrection

​Luke 1:26-38

December 5, 2021

Dr. Todd R. Wright For many, COVID has been one grand interruption! We were working and worshiping. studying and serving, building and buying … and then everything ground to a halt. And when things were stopped, all we could dream of was getting back to normal, getting back to working and worshiping. studying and serving, building and buying. But the annunciation teaches us that some interruptions don’t work like that.

 

We don’t know what Mary was doing when the angel showed up, but we can guess. As a young girl on the cusp of marriage in the small farming town of Nazareth, she was probably hard at work baking bread, preparing meals, carrying water, watching over younger siblings, sweeping, or tending to a few animals. It was a matter of subsistence, of survival, and she played a key role. Perhaps there was also time to admire a beautiful sunrise or listen to a bird’s song, to dance at a neighbor’s wedding or dream of her own marriage, to giggle and gossip, to pray and wonder about how God might act to answer Israel’s laments and yearnings. Gabriel’s arrival was an interruption to all that. Perhaps Mary thought that he would deliver his message, whatever that might be, depart in a whirlwind of feathers, and she would be able to get back to kneading the bread, or sweeping the courtyard, or the feeding of the chickens. Perhaps she thought that his visit would make for a good story to tell at the well with the other women, or around the fire late at night, or the next time she saw the unflappable Joseph. But it soon became clear that this wasn’t going to be that kind of an interruption – something small and trivial and as weightless as dandelion fluff. No this was going to be an earthquake-style interruption – the kind that shakes things up and breaks things beyond mending, the kind that brings down buildings and scatters plans like so much rubble, the kind that changes the courses of roads … and lives. Like an earthquake, the plan Gabriel was describing seemed inevitable, unstoppable, the product of forces beyond her control. He used phrases like “you will conceive and bear a son” and “the power of the Most High will overshadow you” and “nothing is impossible with God!” And yet, the angel seemed nervous, gushing and awkwardly pausing as if unsure whether he was delivering a royal proclamation or desperately trying to close a sale. Jan Richardson, the poet and artist, imagines the embarrassed account of such an angel: “Yet when the time came, when I had stammered the invitation, history would not record the sweat on my brow, the pounding of my heart; would not note that I said ‘Do not be afraid’ [as much] to myself, as to her.”[1]

 

Maybe she had the power to say yes or no to this particular earthquake. Maybe if she said no, he’d find some other girl eager to say “I am ready!”;[2] who had been raised on stories of Samuel saying “Here I am!” and Hannah getting an answer to her prayers; who woke, and wiped sleep from her eyes, and hoped for a flutter of wings, and gifts delivered in the dark. There is no indication that Mary was that sort of girl. And while she may have been able to say no, she said yes. She said yes, knowing full well that this was the sort of interruption that would demand that she give up every plan she had for her life and agree to be part of God’s plan.

 

So that brings me back to this grand interruption we have all been living through. I don’t think we will ever go back to normal working and worshipping or any of the rest. I think this is more like an earthquake. And I hope that this is not just destruction, but God’s interruption; a part of God’s loving plan; a response to long years of laments and yearnings; a turning point that will bring unexpected blessings! I suspect that, like Mary, we can say yes or no, we can embrace or resist. I hope that we will join her in saying yes to this earthquake-like interruption, for though its tremors have already changed plans and altered the course of lives, it promises more (and not just endless after-shocks): it promises to shake what just is and reveal the need for justice,[3] it promises opportunities for people to show courage and compassion, it promises to start small and grow, and most importantly, it promises that God is at work and wants us to join in. May we join Mary in embracing whatever this interruption means for us! Amen

[1] from her poem, “Gabriel’s Annunciation”, see https://adventdoor.com/2014/12/19/advent-4-gabriel-and-mary/ [2] these images are from Amy Frykholm’s poem, “The other annunciation” in The Christian Century, 7/28/16 [3] this poetic contrast is from “The Hill We Climb” by Amanda Gorman
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