Reflections in Interesting Times: Looking Up, Coming Down

This morning I tweeted (@drmoose, @ChpUniNorthants):

“#GoodMorning Without, a cloudless sky, unhindered access to the vault of heaven, the waters above the Earth. Do we seek help to descend from above, or merely to send our concerns up into the ether, far away? Possibly both! There’s #coffee love, & Morning Praye, 0930GMT. Carry on!”

I knew I wanted to remind anyone who cared that I would be live-streaming (even if I’m not sure what “Morning Praye” is…). However, why give a bland announcement when you can be a little more engaging. A little poetry, a smidge of Ancient Near Eastern world-view. And then, from somewhere, even as I composed it, a brief flash of inspiration. Where do we seek help? (Pedants: yes, I know, it should probably be “From whence…”)

How, after all, do we deal with problems once we realise that we can’t do it ourselves? (Of course, reaching that point of realisation of our insufficiency is a difficult one in the first place…). There are, of course, a range of possibilities. Some of us, I suggest, will look up. That might be in prayer, or in an exasperated expletive, as if to fling the thing away, cursed. We might even throw our hands up in horror or despair and run away – not so much looking up as giving up. Some might hope that help will be brought in from outside, descending as if from above, whether that be inspiration (human or divine), practical assistance, as if dropped from a passing aid plane. I’m sure other responses are available.

However, today is an important day to those who observe the Church calendar (at least in the Western tradition). Today is March 25th. “What’s special about that?” you might ask. Generally speaking it’s far too early in the year for so much of the hype… but Christmas Day is exactly nine months away, the standard understanding for the duration of pregnancy. It should, therefore, come as no surprise that today the Church marks the Annunciation, or the give it the fuller title, The Annunciation of Our Lord to the Blessed Virgin Mary. So important that even in Lent, the season of sombre self-examination and denial, Morning Prayer included, in the set psalms, the word that we avoid in Lenten liturgy “Alleluia!”

To many of us in the UK and Europe, the US and further afield, in various stages of quarantine and isolation, lockdown and social distancing, Christmas might feel a long way off. Yet in the Annunciation we are offered hope, in the God who not only hears prayers but answers them. Who not only answers in words or dreams, but who comes down to join us in our Earthly lot, our mess and distress as well as our laughter and joy. There is the glorious light of a spring morning beyond my window, even in our time of uncertainty, and there is the notification of the glory of God enfleshed, due this (and every) December. A reminder not only that there is an ‘after’ to our present Interesting Times, but a breaking in of hope and divine light. And that, surely, is worth an exclamation of joy: “alleluia!”

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