It is a wonderfully fulfilling moment when I am reading something and a phrase or sentence jumps out to capture my attention. Sometimes it is simply the way the author puts it. Other times, there is such a profundity of thought that I am temporarily arrested and can read no further. In a recent reading I had such a moment. There was a phrase that I found that made me go, “Wow.”
The author was discussing something that was not that novel to me. I understood what she was saying, but was not prepared for the phrase that leaped out at me. At one point, the author talked about the “angels of annunciation.” It was not Advent or Christmas season, when you expect the theme of Annunciation to be to the forefront. It was not in the context of the liturgy.
I know the word, annunciation, means “announcement” or “pronouncement.” Most folks know what an angel is. Even if I don’t believe in angels, I know what the typical meaning is. I know the word, angel, comes from the classical languages and means a “messenger.” And angel is one who brings news. The angel is an announcer or pronouncer. In the biblical context the angel is one who brings news from the Holy One. Often God speaks through angelic figures. Some of the New Testament angels are known by name: Gabriel, Michael and others.
I probably should not have been surprised by the phrase that puts together angel and annunciation. I know that angels announce and, sometimes, pronounce. I know the biblical story from Luke’s Gospel where the angel, Gabriel, comes to Mary to proclaim that she would be the handmaiden of the Spirit. But I don’t think I had ever heard the phrase, “angel of annunciation.”
What surprised me even more was the fact that the word, angel, was plural. The phrase said, “angels of annunciation.” I liked the idea of multiple angels who are announcers. I decided I wanted to take this idea into our contemporary world. Let’s explore who are the angels of annunciation and what they might be announcing.
As I thought about my own experience, I realized that I have had any number of angels who have been God’s annunciators. The first one I immediately thought about was the leader in my Quaker meeting that was my first spiritual home. Growing up in that Quaker community was not that special. Everyone was nice enough, but I was not really “into religion.”
As I finished high school and headed off to college, I realized that I had more questions, doubts and confusions about life than I ever would have imagined. I was intellectually, emotionally and spiritually at sea. That leader was an angel of annunciation. Fortunately he did not tell me simply to believe. Doctrine was not my problem and doctrine would not solve my problem.
I knew doctrine would tell me that there was a God and I should believe in that God. However, I began to wonder if I had ever experienced that God! My angel of annunciation told me to be patient. He told me it was ok to have doubts. Being unsure of anything could be the first constructive step onto my own spiritual journey. That angel also promised to walk along with me during those early baby steps. No one expects a baby to walk and, surprisingly, I felt pretty spiritually small.
There have been other angels of annunciation along the way. Some of them have been professors. Again, I feel like I have been lucky. Almost no one insisted that I just buy into some specific answer or particular doctrine and I would be “ok.” I think angels of annunciation do have announcements to make. But not all announcements from the Spirit or about the Spirit are doctrinal guidelines to proper theology. Sometimes these angels of annunciation simply pronounce things like, “it is ok to doubt.”
I have to laugh when I think other angels of annunciation are at the complete other end of professors. I have been announced to by very young people. It could even be a baby who can’t talk. But that baby can be an angel and that little angel can profoundly pronounce very spiritual things. On such occasions the baby “talks” through action.” Who said all announcements have to be words? I am confident some announcements are actions. After all, actions can speak louder than words.
I am very grateful for the angels of annunciation who have been instruments of grace for me. As I write this, I become aware that I, too, could become an angel of annunciation. As I have come to know some things---particularly things by experience---I have a responsibility to pronounce to others what is possible.
With that angelic responsibility I now have, I will look for opportunities to be a herald of the Spirit. Angels announce. They do not coerce, insist, etc. I am thankful that I have known angels and that I now can become an angel for others.