Scripture: Luke 1:26-38
Song: “You Want it Darker,” Leonard Cohen
I recently read a new-to-me thought on the Annunciation: what happens immediately after?
The author asked the reader to consider what happens after the angel leaves. We get so caught up in this miraculous announcement and the longed-for birth that we forget the whole nine months in between. Nine dark months, indeed.
Imagine for a moment how the brightness of the angel’s radiant presence turned the whole of Mary’s humble house and even more humble person into pure light. Long before the invention of electric bulbs, the angel surrounds Mary with pure light itself. And then: imagine how much more profound the dark would seem after the angel departs from her. Where once all was light, it is now so dark that to find her way Mary has to palm the familiar walls until her sight adjusts again. How much darker her world seems after the stunning moment of revelation is over; darker even than it was before.
And imagine how Mary knows she must carry on for months in that darkness, and carry her child as he lies in darkness inside of her. No wonder that Mary, one verse later, goes to seek out Elizabeth – someone else who can sit in the darkness of the After and help her remember that this darkness is also the Before.
The angel departed from her, and Mary herself set out on her own stumbling journey in the dark, just as the beginnings of a new world started to make their journey to life inside of the darkness of her belly.
Advent invites us to consider that the darkness might not be the end, but instead an in-between time – a time in which we must fight all the harder to preserve the memory of the blinding light of Truth until it is fully birthed. A time when we must work all the harder to preserve our hope, tiny and fragile as an embryo buried in the depths of our bellies. Advent reminds us that womb and tomb are separated by only the thin membrane of a single letter and a black line that could be an abyss or a vein of fertile soil. We’re living at the end of an After and the beginning of a Before.
So what is growing in the dark of your life, of your belly?
If God wills that you do this next stretch of road without the illumination of revelation, who do you need to journey with you – to compare notes and to walk a few steps ahead?
Now that the angel has departed, where are you headed, and how will you mother your hopes into being?
Kate Spelman is an Episcopal priest committed to making the church inclusive and accessible to everyone – and maybe even relevant and interesting. She is interested in how we can bend the clumsy structures humanity creates to better reflect God’s dream for the world. Kate currently works beyond the bounds of the parish, helping create resources for vulnerable older adults in suburban Cook County. She serves as a supply priest in her diocese and remains an active advocate for justice in Chicago and in the Episcopal Church at large, with a particular interest in hiring and pay equity, and clergy misconduct.