In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
I always like to have a little Christmas in my Lent. And that’s what we get on March 25 every year. This year, it happens to fall on Palm Sunday, and two years ago it fell on Good Friday, which won’t happen again until 2157, and for which, I assume, none of us will be around. March 25, of course, is nine months prior to December 25, on which day we celebrate the revelation of what began nine months earlier with the words of Gabriel to Mary. We call it The Annunciation, the day when we celebrate the sound of the angel’s words to Mary. That sound—those words—have resounded throughout history, the most monumental event that has ever happened: the entering of God into flesh in order to die.
The Collect for the Annunciation makes the connection explicit for us: “O Lord, as we have known the incarnation of Your Son, Jesus Christ, by the message of the angel to the virgin Mary, so by the message of His cross and passion bring us to the glory of His resurrection” (Collect for the Annunciation of Our Lord).
The song resounds from the Annunciation to the birth of Jesus, and then the song is heard in Bethlehem and Egypt, Galilee and Judea, Samaria and Jerusalem—even to the United States. This is the new song that is sung to the Lord. “Worthy are you to take the scroll and to open its seals, for you were slain, and by your blood you ransomed people for God from every tribe and language and people and nation” (Revelation 5:9). His praise, the worship of His saving action, has gone out to the ends of the earth, sea to sea, and everywhere in between. Yahweh, the mighty one, goes out like a man of war; He cries out, yes, shouts! This is the song that Moses sang: I will sing to Yahweh, for He has triumphed gloriously; the horse and his rider he has thrown into the sea. Yahweh is my strength and my song, and he has become my salvation; this is my God, and I will praise Him, my father’s God, and I will exalt Him. Yahweh is a man of war; Yahweh is His Name (Exodus 15:1-3).
The song echoes back and forth, from the creation to the culmination of all things. There are the martyrs around the throne, the ones marked with the Name of God. They sing the song of Moses, and the song of the Lamb: “Great and amazing are your deeds, O Lord God, the Almighty. Just and true are your ways, O King of the nations! … All nations will worship you, for your righteous acts have been revealed” (Revelation 15:3, 4). As Paul says, the one righteous act of Christ leads to justification for all those defiled by the one sin of Adam (Romans 5:18).
He has been revealed, the one who is the goodness and mercy of God (Titus 3:4), and this new creation from the flesh of Mary is our strength and our song. He has become our salvation. Gabriel sings this song, and then Mary sings it; Elizabeth sings it, Zechariah sings it. This is the only song that the Church has to sing, now and eternally, though it takes as many forms and languages as there are people who have heard it sung. Adults sing it, and children, even those who can’t read, hear and begin to sing. It has echoed from the first Word by which Light burst into the darkness. I will cry out like a woman in labor, Yahweh says. I will turn the darkness of the blind into light.
This song resounds in the darkness until there is only light. This song resounds in the midst of death until there is only life. This song resounds in this creation until this creation is made new. So it was sung by the morning stars and all the sons of God (Job 38:7) at the creation; so it is sung always around the throne of God (Isaiah 6:3; Revelation 4:8, 11; 5:9ff.); so it is sung in her liturgy by the Church of Jesus Christ every single Lord’s Day; and so it will always be sung (Revelation 19:6-8).
The song grows louder this week, as we sing with all those who welcomed Jesus on the donkey, riding into Jerusalem; as we find our voices mingled with the murderous melody of “Crucify, crucify”; even as the song is silenced in heaven and earth, and darkness descends at the death of the Son; as the song holds its rest on the Sabbath. But then we hear it again, we sing it again—it resounds, never to be silenced again—the bright alleluias which even we have foregone these 40 days, they are heard in all nations, in all languages. The song sounds, and resounds, and so it will be in our great joy on that final resurrection day, when Lent and sin and death will have their end, and there will be only Him, who is our resurrection and our life, our salvation, our strength and our song.
In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen. “And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:7, ESV). Amen.
— Pr. Timothy Winterstein, 3/21/18