“Let It Be”
December 23, 2012
Mary, most likely a teenage girl living in an ancient culture; Mary, confronted by an angel—a messenger—of the living God; Mary, told that through no fault of her own she will find herself pregnant—a crime that could lead to her death; Mary responds: “Let it be…”
“Let it be unto me according to your word.”
These are words that we can barely comprehend. They speak of an active human acceptance of God’s promise to be with us. They remind us, Madeleine L’Engle once said, that “We are all asked to do more than we can do. Every hero or heroine of the Bible does more than he or she would have thought it possible to do, from Gideon to Esther to Mary.”
A few years ago the Beatles—or what is left of them—released “Let It Be…Naked” without all of the Phil Spector production of the original. It was a stripped down version that invited us to listen to the Beatles as a four-piece rock group again. “The Long and Winding Road” is pared of its lush orchestrations. The title song of the album comes across in clear simplicity. We hear Paul, still quoting scripture and those words of wisdom: “Let it be.”
“Let it be” does make us “naked” before God. We stand with no defenses. We stand, in the words of the old hymn, just as we are in the world just as it is.
Of course, “just as we are” is often filled with difficulty. Some are dealing with serious illness. Some face the overload of work that comes at the end of the year. Some know that the new year will bring difficult decisions. Others feel the crunch of money or time—there never seems to be enough of either. Tempers soar, building walls of estrangement.
And this world—just as it is? Well, it didn’t come to an end on Friday. But we watch the news—and it just seems to be getting worse.
To say “Let it be” does suggest an acceptance of what is. But this is not to be confused with a resigned passivity. Acceptance will lead to confrontation with the world.
Mary is the one who sings of the disturbing ways of God, of radical changes:
God has brought down the powerful from their thrones,
and lifted up the lowly;
God has filled the hungry with good things,
and sent the rich away empty.
This is not a God who calls for resigned acceptance. This is a God whose very coming as Emmanuel, God with us, upsets the standing social order and replaces it with something more like what could be called the realm of God.
When God chooses the least likely—people like Mary or you or me—and we consent to be a part of what God is doing, nothing stays the same. The weak become strong; the hungry are filled with good things. What seems absolutely impossible is presented to the world as a sign of God's love.
Samuel Miller, who studied at MIT and later became the dean of Harvard Divinity School reflected: “For a long time we have been intent on the regularity and predictability of our world. Our science, technology, and engineering are based on the assurance that the world will follow certain physical laws. From this constancy we have assumed the dependability of God.
“Yet, in life as we know it, there is considerable surprise. Things happen unexpectedly. The web of circumstance and experience is so complex, perhaps we would even dare to say that the power of God is so resourceful and creative, that at any time we may be astounded by the ‘impossible.’
“Recall in your own lifetime the sudden turn of events, the unexpected of which there was no prediction. We are not stretching the truth to say that God does the most unexpected things.”
How will God transform what is weak within you and me into an unknown strength?
How will we allow ourselves to prosper so that we might learn what it means to be generous?
“Christmas cheer” is not always possible. The “joy of the season” that greeting cards wish for us is not always evident. You know this if your job is threatened. You know this if you’re facing serious illness. You know this if the coming holidays only remind you of your loneliness. You know this if you’ve been working so hard that your spirit is weary, so hard that you have neglected people you care about—neglected even yourself.
“My spirit rejoices” Mary says. Can you say that?
Not—“I’m feeling good.”
Not—“Everything is going right for me.”
My spirit rejoices in God my Savior.
The song of Mary witnesses to a joy that is given when we are open to it—even when life is not easy, even when the roads are neither straight nor smooth.
The joy of which Mary sings is connected with what we call the “will of God” for our lives.
I keep going back to one of the Reformed confessions of faith that reminds us: “The chief end of human beings is to glorify God and to enjoy God forever.” Those words come as a relief every time I read them.
Think about it—one of the main reasons for you to be alive is so that you can find joy in God.
You’re not alive to be overworked and burned out.
You’re not alive to feel guilty.
You’re not even alive in the first place to serve other people.
You have been given the gift of life so that you might find joy.
Yes, we are still waiting—still waiting for the advent of God—centuries after the birth of Jesus. All our preparation for that birth, the exhilaration that is sometimes felt, the joyful expectancy of children—all are echoes of the active waiting that continues.
When you hear the good news that God’s Spirit moves toward you spirit, you are close to heart of the meaning of this season. God moves toward humankind in Jesus Christ, reconciling a waiting world.
And when the broken hearted people living in the world agree, there will be an answer.
Let it be.