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One of the greatest American artists, Henry Ossawa Tanner was born in 1859 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. When she was a young girl, his mother Sarah escaped slavery via the Underground Railroad. His father Benjamin became a renowned African Methodist Episcopal minister, bishop, theologian, and author. His middle name is short for Osawatomie – the town in Kansas where in 1856 John Brown launched his antislavery campaign.

A man of deep faith in God, liberation, and justice, Tanner made a pilgrimage to the Holy Land in 1897. After walking in the footsteps of Jesus and meeting the people there, he created one of history’s most stunning accounts of The Annunciation (pictured above)

A frightened Mary in traditional striped peasants garb sits on the edge of a bed stunned by the presence of the angel Gabriel, represented by a blinding light. An unsuspecting and overwhelmed young woman receives the announcement that she will bear and give birth to the Son of God. Against all sense and odds, she responds: Here am I, the servant of the Lord; let it be with me according to your word.

This Sunday we will hear the story of the Annunciation as we make our final stop before meeting Mary in a manger on Wednesday. As we prepare to meet this mother and child, let us rejoice in the light of liberation that is delivered for all of God’s children – especially when it comes in the least expected times and places. May God bless us with the conviction of Gabriel to make announcements about the power of God, and the faith of Mary to receive them.


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