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Sermon for the Annunciation (25th March 2020)

Today we celebrate the most important moment in human history. We have just heard the story. An angel comes with a question. A young girl ponders her answer, while the whole universe holds its breath. Finally she says ‘yes’ to God and conceives a child who will save the world.

Today’s feast has very little to do with Lent. It simply signifies the conception of Christ, occurring as it does exactly 9 months before the date of Christmas when we celebrate His birth. But it prepares us nicely for the coming drama of Holy Week, for today, if you like, is the Prologue. The child conceived in Mary’s womb was born to die for our sins and conquer death. As we sing the Good Friday hymn, Crux fidelis:

So he came, the long-expected,

Not in glory, not to reign;

Only born to be rejected,

Choosing hunger, toil and pain,

Till the scaffold was erected

And the Paschal Lamb was slain.

Today has always been one of great significance. It is close to the spring equinox and marks the changing of the seasons. It was, thus, a convenient time for rents and taxes to be collected, debts paid, workers hired or fired, and leases contracted. Lady Day was also considered the start of the New Year. In many ways it made sense – starting the year with the coming of spring rather than in the depths of winter. This remained the case until 1752, when the British Government finally adopted the Gregorian Calendar. In the transition eleven days were lost, which is why our tax year still begins on 6th April (rather than 25th March).

At the Annunciation we remember that God became a human being and shared our lot. And He did this for you and for me, so that we could be redeemed. It is a feast of hope and new life - and just what we need spiritually as we come to day two of our lockdown. As we walk in darkness we remember the light that lies ahead. And, in the meantime, we follow the Virgin Mary, the first and greatest disciple. May we say ‘yes’ to God, ‘yes’ to His will and ‘yes’ to the crosses we have to bear. And by saying ‘yes,’ let us come to share with Mary the glories of eternal life. Amen.

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