Today is the Celebration of the Annunciation!
Christ in the womb is generally not-spoken-of in protestant Christianity. Christ is born, Christ teaches, Christ dies, all in a year. I don’t remember when I first became aware of the Celebration of the Annunciation. I don’t know how many times I had absent-mindedly admired beautiful paintings and stained glass windows depicting the otherworldly Angelic visitation at Christmas and missed the timing. I don’t know how many times I had heard beautifully crafted musical expressions of Gabriel’s announcement (Missus est Gabriel angelus) and Mary’s response (Magnificat), even sung them in the midst of a December Lessons and Carols or Christmas Cantata without even considering the squashed schedule.
Some how I completely missed the distorted chronology of a birth without a pregnancy. Incarnation at birth, rather than the Scripturally accurate, Conception. It was a John Donne poem that broke through my inadvertent oblivion.
Upon the Annunciation and
Passion Falling upon One Day.
Tamely, frail body, abstain today; today
My soul eats twice, Christ hither and away.
She sees Him man, so like God made in this,
That of them both a circle emblem is,
Whose first and last concur; this doubtful day
Of feast or fast, Christ came and went away;
She sees Him nothing twice at once, who’s all;
She sees a Cedar plant itself and fall,
Her Maker put to making, and the head
Of life at once not yet alive yet dead;
She sees at once the virgin mother stay
Reclused at home, public at Golgotha;
Sad and rejoiced she’s seen at once, and seen
At almost fifty and at scarce fifteen;
At once a Son is promised her, and gone;
Gabriel gives Christ to her, He her to John;
Not fully a mother, she’s in orbity,
At once receiver and the legacy;
All this, and all between, this day hath shown,
The abridgement of Christ’s story, which makes one
(As in plain maps, the furthest west is east)
Of the Angels’ Ave and Consummatum est.
How well the Church, God’s court of faculties,
Deals in some times and seldom joining these!
As by the self-fixed Pole we never do
Direct our course, but the next star thereto,
Which shows where the other is and which we say
(Because it strays not far) doth never stray,
So God by His Church, nearest to Him, we know
And stand firm, if we by her motion go;
His Spirit, as His fiery pillar doth
Lead, and His Church, as cloud, to one end both.
This Church, by letting these days join, hath shown
Death and conception in mankind is one:
Or ‘twas in Him the same humility
That He would be a man and leave to be:
Or as creation He had made, as God,
With the last judgment but one period,
His imitating Spouse would join in one
Manhood’s extremes: He shall come, He is gone:
Or as though the least of His pains, deeds, or words,
Would busy a life, she all this day affords;
This treasure then, in gross, my soul uplay,
And in my life retail it every day.
– John Donne
Of course. This poem in which Christ is conceived and dies on the same day is the one that made me think about the way protestants think about the Incarnation.
Perhaps it’s pastoral trepidation regarding “awkward” questions that allowed a celebration of the Annunciation and Incarnation to fall off the calendar. Particularly those questions where the only answers are supernatural. With two angelic visits followed by an overshadowing of the Holy Spirit, there is plenty to disquiet any lightly held belief of any in the mainstream ministry.
Placed more realistically 9 months before Christmas, the Annunciation, and Incarnation have a sense of being in the fullness of time. The time required for the Christ Child to develop and grow. Perhaps we would have a truer understanding of being “born again,” the supernatural Holy Spirit over-shadowing us, and the time required under His Spirit for growth and development if we celebrated the Annunciation where it belongs.
Too, the choice to shift incarnation from conception and to the Holiday Birth makes it less awkward for mainline protestant denominations to support organizations that advocate for abortion legislation, fund abortion providers and lobby for sex education that promotes promiscuity.* Would it not occur to even the most absent-minded congregant that it is horrifically hypocritical for the church to celebrate the announcement of Christ’s conception in the womb and then nine months later Christ’s birth, while politically, and financially supporting and funding abortion?