March is a welcome month. While it does indeed “come in like a lion”–often bringing the most severe snowstorms of the winter–it also “goes out like a lamb”. The weather begins to moderate, the days grow longer (especially since Daylight Savings Time got pushed back into March), and we joyfully embrace the coming of spring!
The month includes many significant dates. Buffs of Rome or Shakespeare recall Julius Caesar’s assassination on the Ides of March (the fifteenth to us moderns). As a Texan, I cherish the independence day of my home state on March 2 (oddly enough, also the birthday of Sam Houston, who led Texas to independence). I also remember the fall of the Alamo on March 6, and the death of Col. David Crockett (he hated being called Davy!). On March 21, Lutherans can rejoice in the birthday of composer Johann Sebastian Bach. Perhaps the oddest commemoration of the month is National Pig Day on March 1. (I would celebrate this festival with gusto if it did not coincide with Ash Wednesday, a day that I abstain from meat!).
A couple of significant saints days come in March. St. Patrick is, of course, celebrated on March 17. Patrick, the son of a British deacon, was taken into captivity by Irish pirates, and enslaved as a sheep herder. During his captivity, he drew closer and closer to Jesus. When he finally escaped from slavery, he became a clergyman...and then went back to Ireland as a missionary. To me this represents wondrous love and forgiveness–wanting to take Christ to the very people who had enslaved him! Another saint’s day is March 19, St. Joseph’s Day. We remember the “step-father” of God, the one who welcomed and protected Jesus in His infancy and childhood. (Our Friendship Sunday coincides with St. Joseph’s day this year, and will feature canoli-filled St. Joseph’s pastries!) March 19 is also the birthday of Wyatt Earp–a day worth celebrating!
Above all else, March was the time for God’s two greatest actions. These actions both happened on March 25 (according to Christian tradition and the church calendar). One of them was the conception of Christ–the Annunciation to St. Mary, as it is often called. We usually think of Christmas as the day when God became human, but Christmas is really the culmination of something that happened nine months earlier. Jesus was conceived in the womb of the Virgin Mary by the power of the Holy Spirit. As the Angel Gabriel told her:
The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will
overshadow you, so that the one to be born will be called holy, the Son of God.
(Luke 1:35 )
At that moment God united Himself to our human nature, became our human brother. He crossed the vast, infinite gulf that separates God from humanity...He made our flesh His flesh, our blood His blood. A radical act! And it happened March 25.
Thirty-some years later, He carried out an even more radical act. He took that human flesh, He took that human blood...to a cross. On that cross, the flesh of God was torn with nails, the blood of God was spilled with a spear. That, too, took place on March 25, according to ancient Christian tradition. The God who had embraced our human flesh and made it His own on March 25, in a Virgin’s womb...now embraces even our death, and makes that death His own, on a wooden cross.
He did all this for our salvation, to take away our sins, so that we can live with God now and forever.
So March is a month of incredible significance and wonder. God’s two most momentous acts–coming down from heaven to be conceived in the womb of St. Mary, and laying down His life as a sacrifice on the Holy Cross–both happened in this blessed month. March “goes out like a lamb”–and for us it is the holy Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world, the compete sacrifice for our sins.
The sports world speaks of “March Madness”–the NCAA basketball championship games. But actually, God engaged in a bit of “March madness” of His own. For the infinitely holy God to step over the boundary that separates Him from us squalid human beings...that seems pretty rash! For the immortal and unchangeable God to undergo the biggest change of all–death!–seems a little reckless. What’s gotten into God? “March Madness” indeed!
But we know why He did these seemingly reckless things. To quote an old song done by Russ Columbo and, later, Nat “King” Cole: “You call it madness...I call it love.”
Indeed it is love...the most powerful love of all. God was willing to do whatever it takes to rescue us from sin. And it takes...being born. And it takes...dying. And He did it. To see the fulness of His love, think of the God in a mother’s womb...and think of the God on the cross.
A blessed March to all! God loves you and so do I!