Advent, Luke 1:26-45, Sermons

Let It Be

(A sermon for Advent 2B–December 4, 2011–Luke 1:26-45)

Last week I wondered aloud about my purpose in a particular situation, why I am there and what I am doing. I wondered aloud, and the friend listening asked, “Does it really matter why? Can’t you leave that in God’s hands and just be?”

Just be. That’s a struggle for me. I understand why it’s a good idea, but I want to have the answers so that I can figure out how to do things right. I don’t like the uncertainty. It’s my tendency to imagine all the possible scenarios, with a preference for the worst case, hoping I will stumble across the solution to life’s puzzles.

When you’re working that hard to get ahead of everything, it doesn’t leave much room for listening to angels, and maybe that’s because you don’t want to hear what they might ask you to do. Maybe it’s because you don’t want to have to answer, “Let it be with me just as you have said.”

Maybe it’s because I don’t.

I’m pretty sure I’m not as brave as Mary was.

Mary was young, unmarried, a girl of 13 or 14. She could not have been in a worse position for having a baby. She stood to lose everything: her reputation, the marriage arranged for her, even her family. Unmarried girls who had babies lost their status as protected daughter and the possibility of ever becoming a protected wife. Yet here came a representative of God, one of God’s Own Messengers, to tell her God wanted her to risk life as she knew it.

Although she was young, she knew enough to explain patiently that she couldn’t have a baby because that required an activity in which she hadn’t yet participated. She answered practically.

But the angel had come to declare a wonder. God would make something happen in a way no person could.

And so we read that “The Holy Spirit will come over (Mary) and the power of the Most High will overshadow (her). Therefore, the one who is to be born will be holy. He will be called God’s Son.”
But this happened only after she accepted the job to which God called her. “Let it be with me just as you have said,” she answered, bravely.

Would we be so brave?

Now, I expect that God knew how to pick the right young lady. God chose a young woman who had the courage and the strength to live into the call announced by Gabriel. She asked a question, for clarity, but unlike some of the Old Testament figures called by God, she did not try to talk her way out of it. No. Where grown men had bargained with God, a young woman said yes. God called the young woman made for that particular, faithful risk.

“Let it be with me just as you have said.”

A young girl will bear a child somehow conceived within her *by* God.

And she will do it willingly.

She must have been an extraordinary young person. She believed the angel when he told her all things were possible with God. She showed us a new way of being, a new way of believing.

Mary stood at the brink of God’s new relationship with humanity, an embodied, incarnate relationship, God-with-us.

I like this text for the Sunday we light the Peace candle. It’s not because Mary is a silent, pondering peaceful Madonna as pictured in centuries of Christian art, or in the Beatles famous song, but rather because she somehow understands that there will be no peace without saying yes to God. No matter how unlikely the angel’s message sounded, Mary embraced it and answered, “Let it be with me just as you have said.”

I’m not as brave as Mary was.

I’m not sure I’m even as brave as Jennifer is.

Jennifer Knapp had a successful career in the Contemporary Christian Music field in her early 20s. She sang in churches and toured playing concerts. When she dropped off the map, professionally, in 2002, people wondered why. Rumors swirled. There was talk of burnout, but there was also talk about her sexual orientation. The world of Contemporary Christian music is a conservative one, where the fans look to the musicians as role models, and the producers know that counts when it comes to money, and it’s expected that Christians will be only and always heterosexual.

Jennifer moved to Australia, and she stopped playing music for a long time, letting her guitars gather dust. But music, which she understood to be an expression of her relationship with God, began to speak to and through her again, and she came back to the U.S. in 2009 ready to perform again.
She also came out as a lesbian.

An interviewer at Christianity Today magazine asked her, “So why come out of the closet, so to speak?”

Jennifer answered, “I’m in no way capable of leading a charge for some kind of activist movement. I’m just a normal human being who’s dealing with normal everyday life scenarios. As a Christian, I’m doing that as best as I can. The heartbreaking thing to me is that we’re all hopelessly deceived if we don’t think that there are people within our churches, within our communities, who want to hold on to the person they love, whatever sex that may be, and hold on to their faith. It’s a hard notion. It will be a struggle for those who are in a spot that they have to choose between one or the other.”*

Jennifer came to accept and understand herself as the person God made her to be, and found the courage to share the truth with a community she knew might be hostile. God used her gifts in a community that needs the good news she can share. God made her for that particular, faithful risk.

“Let it be with me just as you have said.”

I’m happy for Mary that the person she ran to, her cousin Elizabeth, not only understood the miraculous nature of her situation, but praised it. God asked for a lot, but God also provided love and an affirmation that the child Mary carried would be the Good News for all of us.

Near the end of Luke’s gospel, Mary’s son, Jesus, faces his own moment of reckoning.

Jesus left and made his way to the Mount of Olives, as was his custom, and the disciples followed him. When he arrived, he said to them, “Pray that you won’t give in to temptation.” He withdrew from them about a stone’s throw, knelt down, and prayed. He said, “Father, if it’s your will, take this cup of suffering away from me. However, not my will but your will must be done. ” Then a heavenly angel appeared to him and strengthened him. He was in anguish and prayed even more earnestly. His sweat became like drops of blood falling on the ground. (Luke 22:39-44, Common English Bible)

Even Jesus wished the cup could be taken away, yet we know he did not run away from what was coming. And there in the garden an angel came to him, too, to strengthen him. Like Mary he received his affirmation that he was doing the right thing. Even then, and even in prayer, he poured sweat like drops of blood. And we may not want to compare being crucified with giving birth, but the mess of birth and death connects us all to him, to the baby born in a stable and to the man who died on a cross, to the mother who gave him life and saw him leave it.

Jesus lived out his willingness, just the way his mother did.

“Not my will but your will must be done.”

“Let it be with me just as you have said.”

We may not feel so brave, but it’s important to remember that the risks God calls us to take come directly from who God made us to be.  God made each of us for a particular, faithful risk.  God hopes we are for messengers to tell us when it’s time. God wants us to respond the way Jennifer and Mary and Jesus did, willingly.

“Not my will but your will must be done.”

“Let it be with me just as you have said.”

Let it be. Amen.

*The full Christianity Today interview with Jennifer Knapp may be found here.


3 thoughts on “Let It Be”

  1. This reminds me of a beautiful night prayer in the New Zealand prayer book…that includes, "what is done, is done, let it be…" I too think along the lines of your opening paragraph…


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