Sermon – December 21, 2014 4th Sunday of Advent

Fourth Sunday of Advent
Let it be

Christmas Eve is almost here. Three more days. Our Advent season is drawing to a close. These past few weeks we heard the voices call over the ages that one would come. We have recalled the words of Isaiah, “Comfort, comfort my people. Make straight a pathway.” We heard the proclamation of the voice crying in the wilderness, John the Baptist, who said, “The one who baptizes with the Holy Spirit is coming.  The light is coming.” Together we’ve joined in the waiting for the fulfillment of these claims once again. We saved the consideration of Mary, the other of Jesus, for this day. We saved Mary for the final hours of our anticipation. The pregnant mother, the expectant mother, a metaphor for this whole season. Awaiting the birth of the Christ child. We saved Mary for last.

She, the unlikely one. Mary was the lowest of characters. She was an underage, unmarried, pregnant Jewish girl at a time when those characteristics were unenviable.  She was of remarkably low stature. Yet she is chosen for the highest honor, for the most expected of circumstances. A call even greater that John the Baptist or the prophet Isaiah. Bearing the Christ child.  And we have much to learn from her response, we who now are meant to bear the news of the Christ child.

What of Mary’s response?  First, she asked the obvious biological question, “How can this be, since I am a virgin?”  She had her feet planted firmly on the ground. But then, no self-interest. She didn’t say, “what’s in this for me?” She didn’t say why me. She didn’t say, “I’m not strong enough for that, I’m too young” She didn’t say, “I’m not holy enough for that.”  She didn’t say I’m not well-connected enough for that.” She didn’t say, “I don’t have the time, the energy, or the interest.”  She didn’t ask, “Do I have a choice?” No negotiation, no challenge, no self-interest.

No, instead she hears the message of the angel that ‘nothing is impossible with God, and responds, “Here I am, a servant of the Lord. Let it be. Let it be with me according to your word.” A servant, a vessel, a conduit for the love and purposes of God.

Given the greatest of gifts, her response was humility, obedience, confidence, faith, and I think, then, the peace. Let it be.

These days the message is more and more should be your goal, gain authority and power and prerogative. Be captain of your own ship.

But here, the message is, be like Mary.  Lowly, humble, obedient.  Let it be, according to your world, O Lord. Because nothing is impossible with God.

Every year at this time I get to remember that the Beatles wrote one of my favorite songs about Mary.  Lennon and McCartney cut to the heart of this story, of Mary’s faith, and her model for us. You remember the song. Every once in a while we get to sing it. “When I find myself in times of trouble. . . “

Let it be. Mary saw the power of God come into her life and through faith, she was willing to let it be, to let God do what God intended through her.

I’m not so sure that we haven’t had, like Mary, an angel looking over our shoulders. I’m not so sure that all of us haven’t been called to something special in God’s name. In our jobs, in our homes, with our friends, in this church. I’m not so sure that an angel or two has not drawn near and said, “Favored one . . . do this.” Have you found a stirring in your heart? That might be a call, like that of Mary, to better live out your Christian faith, to bear witness to the Bethlehem baby in some way or another, some way we would be good at.

What Mary tells us, models for us is that God comes to us. Ours is an incarnational theology, the belief that God is with us, comes to us in a most familiar way. As a person, as a child. Emmanuel, God with us. This is God’s grace at work. How to we know?  Mary had a baby, she called him Jesus. He was the Son of God, attested to finally by his life and death and resurrection.

God comes to us in a most familiar way. That’s how God works. So maybe we shouldn’t be surprised if we discover an angel has parked herself on our windowsill.  So, what might be their message? How has it changed? When it comes down to it, we look to the baby in the manger because through him we would finally be restored, that grace would be ours.   That’s always the message of the Spirit. That’s always the call of Christian people.  That’s always our work.  That we are to express in one form or another, that grace. Ours to let it be.  Putting ourselves in God’s hands means trusting in the promise that God will work all things for good in God’s way, in God’s time, in God’s economy. It does not mean we will always understand what is happening in us, through us, to us. . . or why.  As one pastor wrote, “Mary’s’ belief in God’s possibilities led her be an embarrassment to her family, unwed and pregnant. Later she watched her son executed as a criminal. Some blessed life!”  Yet, she was profound tool in God’s design to change the world.

Are we alert to the possibilities that God would speak to us, through us, in us?  Remember Mary.  God speaks through all sorts of vessels. Are we alert to the possibility that God will speak to us? Are we tuned in? How do we react . . . do we negotiate, present our agendas, I’ll do this if you’ll do this?

Remember Mary, who responds by letting God express the divine will through her.

Mary bears the one who assures us that we can let it be.  The one who demonstrates that God is faithful, that God is loving, that God is with us, the one called Emmanuel.

That is the grace of God at work, pulling and pushing us at the same time. Calling us and strengthening us. Somehow Mary must have known that. It is confidence born of faith, acted out in obedience and understood as love.

The last verse of that Beatle’s song sings, “I wake up to the sound of music, Mother Mary comes to me, speaking words of wisdom, Let it Be.’  Especially in our joy, in the music of our lives, especially there, we are called to let it be. Let it be with us according to your word of grace and joy and promise, that our lives might be filled with hope and love and purpose. That is the music of Christmas, that is the joy of Christmas.   Let’s let this gift wash over us. Let’s let it be, Let’s let this light, this child, this faith grow in our homes and in our lives, rejoicing in it, leaning on it, wondering at it.  Let’s let Him lead us, and let it be, according to God’s gracious, faithful, loving will.