Spend a moment with this picture, and particularly with the face of Mary as she learns that she is to become the mother of Jesus. I stumbled across this little known painting of the annunciation (in the Tate Britain) and was struck by the anticipation on Mary’s face as she comes to terms with what she is called to and what it will mean for her and for the world. I am struck by the joy and trepidation. Because of course this calling will bring tears as well as blessing, and the quiet, ordinary life that she might have hoped for will never be. We don’t need to just imagine what Mary was feeling – over the course of her pregnancy she articulated in the most moving words, rooted in and inspired by the scriptures, what she believed the coming messiah would mean for the world. And that prayer has come to be known as ‘The Magnificat’. And so we start our journey through Advent with these words from Luke’s Gospel. My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord, my spirit rejoices in God my Saviour;he has looked with favour on his lowly servant. From this day all generations will call me blessed; the Almighty has done great things for me and holy is his name. He has mercy on those who fear him, from generation to generation. He has shown strength with his arm and has scattered the proud in their conceit, Casting down the mighty from their thrones and lifting up the lowly. He has filled the hungry with good things and sent the rich away empty. He has come to the aid of his servant Israel, to remember his promise of mercy, The promise made to our ancestors, to Abraham and his children for ever.