Lent, Day 21 (Feast of the Annunciation)

LOOK: The Annunciation by Steven Homestead

Homestead, Steven_The Annunciation
Steven Homestead (American, 1982–), The Annunciation, 2020. Digital collage.

Artist, composer, writer, curator, and speaker Steven Homestead of Orange County, California, created this collage by overlaying and manipulating three photographs from Unsplash. It depicts the moment when the angel Gabriel came to Mary of Nazareth to tell her that she had been chosen to bear God’s Son. Though Mary was initially taken aback by this announcement, she ultimately gave her full assent, leaning into the future God had for her. Through her fiat, her yes, God worked the salvation of the world.

Gabriel and Mary are represented here by two Brazilian models whose raised arms—his right, her left—form near symmetrical arcs. It’s as if he’s calling and she’s responding. She’s bending to God’s will, but not with the sort of demure posture so often assigned to her in art history; instead, her stance is one of freedom and power and becoming.

The curve of Gabriel’s hand matches the curve of the stained glass leading, which encircles his head and frames a representation of the Holy Spirit as dove, flying forth from a sunburst.

The setting is outdoors in a wooded area. Mary is dressed in white, like a bride. As she surrenders to the Divine, she becomes filled with light, the sun’s rays converging on her womb. A mystical veil falls around the two figures, suggesting sanctity and mystery. Her body has become the temple of the Lord.

March 25—exactly nine months before Christmas—is when the church celebrates the miraculous conception of Christ in Mary’s womb, the first stage of the Incarnation. It’s an event that fills me with awe and wonder—as it has thousands of artists over the centuries. I’m building a Pinterest board of Annunciation art that I find compelling, which you may be interested to browse: https://www.pinterest.com/art_and_theology/annunciation/. Homestead’s piece is my latest addition.

LISTEN: “Lord, Prepare Me to Be a Sanctuary” by Randy Lynn Scruggs and John W. Thompson, 1982 | Arranged and performed by the West Angeles COGIC Mass Choir and Congregation on No Limit, 2007

Lord, prepare me
To be a sanctuary
Pure and holy
Tried and true
And with thanksgiving
I’ll be a living
Sanctuary
For you

And whatever you tell me, my answer will be yes
Yes (yes)
Yes (yes to your will, Lord)
Yes (yes to your way)
Yes (Lord, I’ll go where you want me to go)
Yes (yes)
Yes, yes (yes)
Yes (whatever you tell me to do, Lord)
Yes
Yes (my will is your will for me, Lord)
Yes (come on, let’s take it higher, say yeah)

Lord, prepare me
To be a sanctuary
Pure and holy
Tried and true
And with thanksgiving
I’ll be a living
Sanctuary
For you

Hallelujah, hey!
Now I want the Lord to mold me
I want him to make me, I want him to shape me
I want him to direct me, I want him to purge me
I want him to wash me
Whatever he wants me to be
I’ll be just that, so I tell him:

Lord, mold me (mold me)
What you want me to be (what you want me to be)
Oh mold me (mold me)
What you want me to be (what you want me to be)
Oh and say mold me (mold me)
Say what you want me to be (what you want me to be)
Oh mold me (yes, what you want me to be) (mold me)
What you want me to be (what you want me to be)

Mold and we’ll say yes (yes)
Yes to your will say (yes to your will)
Say yeah, yeah (yeah)
Yes to your way, Lord (yes to your way)
Say yes everyday (yes everyday)
Yes to your way (yes to your way)
Say yes, I’ll obey (yes, I’ll obey)
Say yes to your way (yes to your way)

Lord, mold me
What you want me to be
Say what you want me to do
Where you want me to go
Say where you want me to go
When you want me to go
Say how you want me to go
What you want me to do

And you will say yeah (yeah)
Say yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah (yeah)
Say yes to your way (yes to your way)
Ooh ooh ooh yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah (yeah)
Say yes to your will (yes to your will)
Say, say yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah (yeah)
Say:

Lord, prepare me
To be a sanctuary
Pure and holy
Tried and true
And with thanksgiving
I’ll be a living
Sanctuary
For you

Hallelujah
Lord, I say yes
Lord, I say yes
Lord, I say yes
To your will and to your way
Not my time, but yours

If there’s one word I most associate with the Annunciation, it’s “yes.”

This song doesn’t directly reference the Annunciation, but it does capture the attitude of surrender to God that Mary modeled for us. “Lord, I say yes to your will and to your way.” We can assume that throughout her girlhood she cultivated a devotion that made her open and receptive to God’s call when it came. She was ready to offer herself as God’s sanctuary, a house for his incarnate presence. She literally became pregnant with God!

In a spiritual sense, we too are called to bear Christ within us (Rom. 8:10; 2 Cor. 4:6–7; 13:5; Gal. 1:15–16; 2:20). To be temples of his Spirit (1 Cor. 6:19–20). And to answer yes when God invites us into some new adventure.

Christmas, Day 2

LOOK: Jesus, Light of the World by Wayne Forte

Forte, Wayne_Jesus, Light of the World
Wayne Forte (Filipino American, 1950–), Jesus, Light of the World, 2009. Oil and acrylic on canvas, 30 × 24 in.

LISTEN: “Jesus, Light of the World” | Words by Charles Wesley (stanzas), 1739, and George D. Elderkin (refrain), 1890 | Music by George D. Elderkin, 1890 | Performed by Isaac Cates and Ordained on Carol of the Bells, 2014 (soloists: Margaret Rainey and Kami Woodard)

Hark! the herald angels sing.
Jesus, the light of the world.
Glory to the newborn King,
Jesus, the light of the world.

We’ll walk in the light, beautiful light.
Come where the dewdrops of mercy shine bright.
Oh, shine all around us by day and by night.
Jesus, the light of the world.

Joyful, all you nations, rise.
Jesus, the light of the world.
Join the triumph of the skies.
Jesus, the light of the world.

Christ, by highest heav’n adored.
Jesus, the light of the world.
Christ, the everlasting Lord,
Jesus, the light of the world.

Hail the heav’n-born Prince of Peace.
Jesus, the light of the world.
Hail the Sun of righteousness!
Jesus, the light of the world.

In 1890 Chicago publisher George D. Elderkin adapted Charles Wesley’s beloved Christmas hymn text “Hark! the Herald Angels Sing,” using the first two lines of Wesley’s stanzas 1, 2, 3, and 5 and adding a refrain that’s based on a Fanny Crosby text from 1880. For the music, he wrote a gospel waltz. Although Elderkin was not African American, this hymn has become especially well loved in Black churches. Read a more detailed history of the hymn’s composition at the UMC Discipleship website.  

Isaac Cates’s 2014 arrangement and recording is my favorite. Cates is a gospel vocalist, arranger, and pianist who performs with his choir, Ordained.