It's Lady Day today, the Feast of the Annunciation. When you're next inside Great St Mary's take a moment with the illustration of the Annunciation in the bottom left corner of our East window, the great Archangel Gabriel kneeling at Mary's feet.
Mary, of course, looks supremely serene about the news which Gabriel bears — the Hardman & Co artists who crafted this window 1869 may have put something of a Victorian spin on what, in Luke's gospel seems to be a far more dramatic conversation of shock and confusion before Mary's decision of assent. But even in our window, Mary's hands are crossed not merely demurely, but perhaps a little defensively as well. Because news — and not only bad news — is a source of stress. Years ago my therapist taught me that good news, positive changes, can be stressful as well. And while friends and relations can be sympathetic when we receive bad news, folks rarely console us when we receive good news. It's not always bad to be stressed, Mary's preternatural calm in our East window notwithstanding. Stress is, in moderate doses, a useful psychological and physiological response, a survival trait that has saved our ancestors from many a saber tooth tiger. But living in a constant state of stress, — of doomscrolling news, of managing unpredictable and frequent change, even when that change is positive — can be wearing. There is a lot of news these days, and a river of changes both good and bad. You might feel exhausted or anxious, and the "good news" of upcoming lockdown relaxation will for some of us be more stressful than the "bad news" of restrictions. Back in high school, I used to love doing the announcements at school assembly -- bounding on stage and talking about what was coming up this week. And I miss giving the notices to a congregation at Great St Mary's. But I suspect that sometimes I did ramble on a bit long when we were all ready for an opening hymn. Today I realise that I miss hymns far more than I miss announcements. So perhaps on this Feast of the Annunciation we might spend a little less time with the daily news, and a little more time with the Good News. We might turn off our phone notifications and our news alerts, and turn our hearts again to Scripture, to prayer, to listening for God's quiet voice. Devin