Sunday, December 18, 2011

Where Let It Be Leaves Off

Fourth Sunday in Advent
December 18, 2011

Apparently even young people are fans of the Beatles so it’s possible that most everyone knows the song “Let It Be.” Though it’s a great song, at least for those who like the Beatles, there’s a reason we won’t be singing it in our worship service this morning. Where Let It Be leaves off is with, well, just letting it be. If you just let things be you are left without any certainty. There has to be more to letting things be than simply letting them be.

As Mary said in the Gospel reading, the ‘more’ is ‘according to your word’. That is, according to the Word of God. We must let it be but according to God’s Word.

Paul McCartney’s lyrics in the song Let It Be give us some helpful wisdom. But not much more than that. Ultimately they leave us without hope, without certainty. He tells of how he came up with the lyrics for the song. During a difficult time in his life he had a dream where his mother, whose name was Mary, spoke to him to give him comfort. He relates that she told him, “It will be all right, just let it be.” Again, that’s really good advice and there is tremendous wisdom in it. How often do we kick against the goads? How many times do we make matters worse by taking things into our own hands when we should just let things go and leave them be?

But there is another Mary who understood that there is no real certainty in leaving things at just letting them be. Her response to Gabriel was, “Let it be to me according to your word.” Mary trusted that what the angel Gabriel was telling her was the Word of God. She submitted to this Word; this Word that came from God. She let things be. But she let them be according to God’s way. I don’t doubt for a moment that Paul McCartney had a dream in which his mother Mary whispered words of wisdom to him. What I believe, though, is that the Mary we should be taking our cue from is the Mary who spoke words of wisdom in saying that she was the servant of the Lord, that she would let it be according to the Lord’s word.

Think for a moment what Mary was talking about. She was talking about the one she would give birth to. She was submitting to one who was yet unborn. One who would be born from her very womb, though she was a virgin. No wonder she was confused. But even when we are confused we can take God at His word. Even when we don’t understand we can let it be according to His Word.

This Saturday evening we will enter into the Christmas season. What so many people in December celebrate as the Christmas season is often something very different from what today’s Gospel reading shows us. Gabriel speaks of what Christmas actually is. “You will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call His name Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. And the Lord God will give to Him the throne of His father David, and He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of His kingdom there will be no end.” When you see what God says Christmas is you begin to see how submitting to His way is the way to go.

Not that the lights and the parties and the malls should have no part of our Christmas festivities. We are free to enjoy these things as a society and with our families. At the same time, what we see from Mary is that there is so much more. If we just let it be then our celebration of Christmas will miss what Christmas really is about. For Mary it was now about nine months of waiting and pondering the amazing visit from an angel who told her she would conceive of a son in a miraculous way, by the Holy Spirit. She now saw that anything she might think or do could not bring about such an amazing thing as the promises of God being fulfilled in a common Galilean girl. We can safely assume she probably never had thought that the promises of the Kingdom of God would be carried out in her womb.

But she saw who she was. She wasn’t simply an ordinary girl. She was a servant. She was a servant of the Lord. Despite what appeared to be, she would let it be according the Lord’s word. She didn’t simply let it be; she let it be according to His Word.

The Holy Spirit inspired Luke to write these things down. This is more than just a story, just as the account of the birth of Christ is more than just a story. What we learn here from Mary’s response to Gabriel is something that should not only put our Christmas celebration in perspective but our life, and our eternity. We are servants. We should let it be according to the Word of the Lord.

What this meant for Mary was nine months of pregnancy, giving birth to Jesus, the Son of God, and raising this child in a Christian home. It meant also believing in Him, her Son, the Savior of the world. When she was submitting to the Word of the Lord she was submitting to her unborn Son. If it is going to be, it is best for it to be according to His Word. What we’re really talking about here is not how wonderful Mary was in submitting to God’s Word, but what a Savior we have in God submitting Himself to be born of a virgin and going the path of the cross. Mary’s point was not that she was such a wonderful servant of God but that she was unworthy of God’s favor but nevertheless rested in it. She rejoiced in His grace and mercy and so let it be according to His Word.

It’s not about Mary, but that doesn’t mean that we don’t get from this passage in the Word of God what we need to learn of Mary. In her our Lord is giving us a picture, even an example, of who we should be as Christians. We should submit to the Word of the Lord. We are His servants and we should let it be according to His Word.

Mary was rightly puzzled at Gabriel’s pronouncement. You’re going to have a child! How could this be?, she hadn’t broken the Sixth Commandment. What strange thing was God pulling here? Okay, so it was strange, or at least out of the ordinary, but as we see from the Scriptures, God likes to work out of the ordinary. But He does so in ordinary means. Here, through an ordinary girl. She’s the one who’s going to give birth to the Messiah, God in the flesh. And the Sixth Commandment? God is the author of that and He can take care of things in such a way that she won’t be committing adultery. The Holy Spirit will work His power and she will conceive of a son. The Holy Spirit works when the Word of God is spoken. Gabriel spoke it, it was so.

You and I are just like Mary. We have heard the Word of the Lord. We also wonder how it can be. The world celebrates Christmas with its lights and its parties and its malls. Hey, we know a good thing when we see it, so we join in with them. But we are also like Mary and see so much more. We let it be according to God’s Word and actually believe that God was born. That God was actually curled up in the womb of a girl who lived in a small area of the globe. That God actually was born and needed to be fed and hugged and tickled. We are servants of the Lord, of this one, the one who became a man and went the way of the cross.

And it doesn’t stop there. As servants of the Lord we continue to hear our Lord speak to us. When our Lord says, “Take and eat, this is My Body,” we wonder, “How can this be since it is bread that I am eating?” He speaks back to us, “The Holy Spirit is at work. He works when My word is spoken. He brought about My conception in the womb of Mary and brings about My body in and with this bread.” May we speak with Mary, “Behold, I am the servant of the Lord, let it be to me according to Your word.”

When our Lord says, “Take and drink, this is My Blood,” we wonder, “How can this be since it is wine that I am drinking?” He speaks back to us, “The Holy Spirit is at work. He works when My word is spoken. He brought about My conception in the womb of Mary and brings about My blood in and with this wine.” May we speak with Mary, “Behold, I am the servant of the Lord, let it be to me according to Your word.”

The Bible isn’t just a bunch of stories. It is the Word of God. The Lord’s Supper isn’t just a ritual. It is the Lord’s Supper. God came in the flesh, conceived in the womb of Mary. He comes in the flesh to us today, in and with the bread and wine. Yeah, we wonder how it can be, but we also give thanks that our Lord grants us the faith to rejoice that we are His servants and simply let it be according to His word. Amen.


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