Pain Will Endure. Joy Comes in the Morning.

Annunciation means an announcement of something. When you see the word capitalized and called out, “The Annunciation” it signifies the angel Gabriel’s visit to Mary announcing the birth of Jesus. But there are other annunciations, perhaps, not all so joyful or hope-filled. Some announcements catch us off guard, fill us with sadness and make us anxious. 

Madeleine L’Engle, beloved author of  A Wrinkle in Time, has two poems entitled Annunciation. The first, I found in The Weather of the Heart(Seabury Press, 1978, 44). It is a short poem which describes Mary’s yes to God :

Annunciation


To the impossible: Yes!
Enter and penetrate
O Spirit. Come and bless
This hour: the star is late.
Only the absurdity of love
Can break the bonds of hate.

Hopeful exuberance and full acceptance of the Angel’s claim.  Mary understood, that as whimsical and absurd as it all sounded, God was in the details and this was indeed good news Only the absurdity of love can break the bonds of hate. 

The second of L’Engle’s poems called Annunciation (from Cry Like A Bell, Seabury Press, 1987, 45-46)  weaves the Lukan image of Mary’s annunciation with another angelic visitation—another boy to be born. But here there is less a sense of good news. Instead we hear a mournful warning, foreboding of what lay ahead:

1
Sorrowfully
the angel appeared
before the young woman
feared
to ask what must be asked,
a task
almost to great to bear.
With care,
mournfully,
the angel bare
the tidings of great joy
,
and then
great grief.
Behold, thou shalt conceive.
Though shalt bring forth a son.
This must be done.
There is no reprieve.

2

Another boy
born of woman (who shall also grieve)
full of grace
and innocence
and no offense—
a lovely one
of pure and unmarked face.

3
How much can one woman bear?

4

Pain will endure for the night
but joy comes in the morning.

His name is Judas.


That the prophets may be fulfilled
he must play his part. 
It must be done.
Pain will endure.
Joy comes in the morning.

We aren’t accustomed to thinking about Judas in Advent. We tell the story of Jesus coming and how kings are toppled from their throne and the lowly raised up. We celebrate the child born, full of possibility and promise. A baby changes everything!But not all news that finds us is good.

I am a father of 4 with all kinds of hope for each of my kids but I can’t tell you what their future holds. I fear unwelcome annunciations. A vexing diagnosis, traumatic experience, difficult circumstance may each derail my heartiest hopes for them. Or maybe, like Judas, they may each choose to walk from the light and go their own way. 

A baby does change everything. With each birth comes hope and worry, sleepless nights and heartache. Even joyful Mary was warned a sword will pierce your heart too (Luke 2:35). 

Judas, the betrayer, played his part in delivering up Jesus to be crucified. But he was also loved by God, chosen by Jesus, welcomed as a friend. He dies desolate and alone, overcome by shame, lost to himself. Such a sad end for one so-well-loved. 

Pain will endure. Joy comes in the morning. 

There is a third annunciation poem by L’Engle entitled After Annunciation  (The Weather of the Heart, 45):

This is the irrational season

when love blooms bright and wild.

Had Mary been filled with reason

there’d have been no room for the child.

The joyful hope of Advent, defies our reason and reasonable expectations. I do not know what hope there is for Judas. I both worry and dream about the futures my 4 children will inhabit. And God is at work redeeming the world. The Pain endures, joy in the morning.

These Still December Mornings


By the time the third week of Advent rolls around, we’ve marked hope and our lingering dissatisfaction with where the world is. We have longed for the Peace of Christ to come to our war-torn-and-too-violent world. Then in week 3, even though we know it’s coming, we are surprised by joy. 

Luci Shaw

‘Tis the season for angelic visitations, a perfect image for this happy surprise of Advent Joy. Luke tells of two such visitations. Both times the visitor brought good news: A Child will be born. God has remembered his people and is sending a redeemer!

The first  visit left  Zechariah dumbstruck (Luke 1:22). On the next visit, Mary was receptive and after seeing Elizabeth, Zechariah’s wife, pregnant in her old age, she burst with song (1:46-55). 

Of course “angelic visitation” may not  always mean an aura of light, a long flowing robe and feathered wings. In Luci Shaw’s Advent Visitation the visitor comes in with the  ‘satin wind’ to her cabin door. We don’t get a look at the visitor but we sense the joy that this visit brought her:

Even from the cabin window I sensed the wind’s
contagion begin to infect the rags of leaves.
Then the alders gilded to it, obeisant, the way

angels are said to bow, covering their faces with
their wings, not solemn, as we suppose, but
possessed of a sudden, surreptitious hilarity.

When the little satin wind arrived,
I felt it slide through the cracked-open door
(A wisp of prescience? A change in the weather?),

and after the small push of breath–You
entering with your air of radiant surprise,
I the astonished one.

These still December mornings
I fancy I live in a clear envelope of angels
like a cellophane womb.  Or a soap bubble,

the colors drifting, curling.  Outside
everything’s tinted rose, grape, turquoise,
silver–the stones by the path, the skin of sun

on the pond ice, at night the aureola of
a pregnant moon, like me, iridescent,
almost full-term with light.


Like Shaw on one of these still December mornings, Mary, Elizabeth (and Zechariah) were each surprised by joy! The things they each hoped for but feared would never come to pass were now happening! The gnawing loneliness and ache of absence were being swallowed up. A people’s long exile was coming to an end. There was joy in the visiting and joy for what was yet to come. 

You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you are to call him Jesus. 3He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, 3and he will reign over Jacob’s descendants forever; his kingdom will never end.”

Mary floated like she was in a clear envelope of angels like a cellophane womb. Or a soap bubble. Everything outside was tinted rose, grape, turquoise and silver. Joy! The reflection of the moonlight on the frozen pond, an areola of the pregnant moon—almost full-term with light! Anticipation and excitement reach a fever pitch. Jesus is coming, God is here!

Have you had an angelic visitation yet? God is near.