Picture this delightful scene with me: it feels like ‘o-dark-thirty’ and for some bizarre reason your alarm is ringing, so you turn over and fumble for the snooze button, fearing that you’ll fall back to sleep without a repeat reminder. You don’t know what time it is or even what day it is at this point. But it isn’t the alarm clock ringing; actually there’s nothing ringing and now you’re starting to feel some uneasiness. You crack open one eye and find the room flooded with light! But the light is actually a kind of person, all lit up, standing in your room right by your bed! An instantaneous sizzle of fear and dread causes your heart rate to soar, your sleep-fogged mind to scramble in a desperate effort to try to figure out what this is – a nightmare or last night’s pizza, or possibly something far more sinister. Involuntarily, you duck your head under the covers, hoping that when you re-emerge this will be proven to have been just a very weird dream sequence. But no, during your ‘burial’, the apparition terrifies you by calling you by name! How does he/she/it know my name? Now in a sweating, icy panic, a screaming, disembodied, single-word prayer hits the ceiling: “JESUS!” In the ensuing silence, a soothing voice asks that you not be afraid. What? Who are you kidding? All you want to do is run away, but you can’t leave the ‘security’ of your blankets. And are those fear tears on your cheek? Look or not look? Finally, chest heaving, heart in throat, you decide, since your presence is not exactly a secret, you dare lowering the covers and . . .

The above scene is my imagining an angelic visitation today, in the 21st Century. I’m only slightly sorry to have misled you by calling it delightful. It’s just that when I think of a young, teenage girl from a small, rural town, dutifully minding her own business, looking up to see something similar, I don’t think warm fuzzies, heavenly choirs in four-part harmony or finely-tuned orchestral strings as background were anywhere to be found, or heard. It is lovely, isn’t it, to romanticize Bible stories the way is often done, dressing them up to tame them and prettify them, but the stark reality of the Eternal One breaking in on the day-to-day humdrums of Toms, Dicks and Harriets is not for the fainthearted or for vagabonding souls. What I’m saying is, Mary’s my hero! PD

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