Annunciation

Hail, O favored one!
But Mary was greatly troubled
at the angel's erupting, interrupting greeting.

No wonder.
The annunciation of heaven
splitting earth
is always troubling
trembling
tremulous.
Mountains shake
hearts quiver
at the sound of God's rousing.

No wonder.
Such announcements stir dangerous memory:
the crumbling of ambition,
quakes rending high places;
and raise saviors out of mangers
to subvert palaces and princes and priests.

Hail, O favored one!
Heaven's comedy breaks with a grin:
into the womb of a teenage peasant,
to shepherds standing in dung-filled fields,
to goyim -- refuse of creation -- of distant lands
who decipher God's signature in the very stars.

With Mary, Herod also shudders,
gripped with fear,
at the sound of the heavenly Hail!
His heart, too, is troubled
trembling
tremulous.
But Herod-hearts
cast slaughtered innocents
in their wake.

Only those with wombs of welcome
to heaven's Annunciation
can magnify God and heal the earth.

Ken Sehested was executive director of the Memphis, Tennessee-based Baptist Peace Fellowship of North America when this poem appeared.

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