2 Samuel 7:1-11,16
Let us pray: Come, Lord Jesus. Fill our minds with your word, fill our hearts with your love, and fill our lives with your light. Come, Lord Jesus, we pray. Amen.
"Mary said, 'I am the servant of the Lord. Let it be done to me as you say.'"
When Gabriel announced to Mary that she would give birth to a son she was troubled, and perplexed. She said, “How can this be?” This was not in her plans for her future with her betrothed husband Joseph. But Gabriel told her that the Holy Spirit would come upon her and she would conceive and the child to be born would be holy. And Mary responded, “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word.”
She said, “Let it be.” One of the greatest Beatles hits was the song “Let it Be.” Some of the words are:
“When I find myself in times of trouble,
Mother Mary comes to me,
Speaking words of wisdom, let it be.
And in my hour of darkness,
She is standing right in front of me,
Speaking words of wisdom, let it be.”
Let it be. But, how difficult it is for us to let it be. When we can’t find a rational explanation for something unplanned it haunts us. We want things to be as WE plan them and want them to turn out.
How frequently do we lose sleep at night, worry, pace, fuss and fume about problems that we probably can’t solve? We want things to be as we want. We become obsessed with answers and explanations only to become totally overwhelmed and anxious over things we can’t fix.
To let it be means to let God be God. To let go of the need to figure everything out, or the need to have a rational explanation for everything that happens. Sometimes we just have to resolve that things are the way they are for reasons beyond our control or our knowledge.
I’d like to share a story with you written by Robert Fulghum, in his book titled Uh-Oh.
“It was the summer of 1959. At the Feather River Inn in the Sierra Nevada Mountains of northern California. A resort environment. And I, just out of college, have a job that combines being the night desk clerk in the lodge and helping out with the horse-wrangling at the stables. The owner/manager is Italian-Swiss, with European notions about conditions of employment. He and I do not get along. I think he’s a fascist who wants peasant employees who know their place, and he thinks I’m a good example of how democracy can be carried too far. I’m twenty-two and pretty free with my opinions, and he’s fifty-two and has a few opinions of his own.
One week the employees were served the same thing for lunch every single day. Two wieners, a mound of sauerkraut, and stale rolls. To compound insult with injury, the cost of meals was deducted from our pay. I was outraged.
On Friday night of that week, I was at my desk clerk job around 11 p.m., and the night auditor had just come on duty. I went to the kitchen to get a snack and saw a note to the chef to the effect that wieners and sauerkraut are on the employee menu for two more days.
That tears it. I quit! For lack of a better audience, I unloaded on the night auditor, Sigmund Wollman. I declared that I have had it up to here; that I am going to go get a plate of wieners and sauerkraut and go and wake up the owner and throw it on him. I am sick and tired of this crap and nobody is going to make me eat wieners and sauerkraut for a whole week and make me pay for it, and who does he think he is anyhow, and how can life be sustained on wieners and sauerkraut, and this is un-American, and I don’t like wieners and sauerkraut enough to even eat it one day, and the whole hotel stinks anyhow, and the horses are all nags, and the guests are idiots and I’m packing my bags and heading for Montana where they never even heard of wieners and sauerkraut and wouldn’t even feed that stuff to the pigs.
Something like that. I raved on this way for about twenty minutes, and needn’t repeat it all here. You get the drift. My monologue was delivered at the top of my lungs, punctuated with blows on the front desk with a fly-swatter, the kicking of chairs and much profanity. As I pitched my fit, Sigmund Wollman, the night auditor, sat quietly on his stool, smoking a cigarette, watching me with sorrowful eyes.
Put a bloodhound in a suit and tie and you have Sigmund Wollman. He’s got a good reason to look sorrowful. Survivor of Auschwitz. Three years. German Jew. Thin, coughed a lot. He liked being alone at the night job—it gave him peace and quiet, time to read and even more, he could go into the kitchen and have a snack whenever he wanted to—all the wieners and sauerkraut he wanted. To him a feast. More than that, there’s nobody around to tell him what to do. In Auschwitz he probably dreamed of such a time.
“Fulchum, are you finished?”“No, why?”“Lissen, Fulchum. Lissen me, lissen me. You know what’s wrong with you? It’s not wieners and kraut and it’s not the boss and it’s not the chef and it’s not this job.”
“So, what’s wrong with me?”“Fulchum, you tink you know everyting, but you don’t know the difference between an inconvenience and a problem. “If you break your neck—if you have noting to eat—if your house is on fire—then you got a problem. Everyting else is inconvenience. Life IS inconvenient. Life IS lumpy.
“Learn to separate the inconveniences from the real problems. You will live longer. And will not annoy people like me so much. Good night.”
In a gesture combining dismissal and blessing, he waved me off to bed. He concludes by writing, “Seldom in my life have I been hit between the eyes with truth so hard. “For thirty years now in times of stress and strain, when something has me backed against the wall and I’m ready to do something really stupid with my anger, a sorrowful face appears in my mind and asks: “Fulchum. Problem or inconvenience?”
For Mary I’m sure this was a significant inconvenience. Why was Mary able to say “let it be?” First, she had a deep, abiding faith. She trusted in the wisdom of God and therefore could submit to God’s plan. How often do we find our personal agendas in direct competition with what God would have us do? Mary and Joseph probably hoped to have a happy marriage in the quiet little village of Nazareth. God, however, had different plans for them.
That’s the way it works with God. Just when we think we have our lives going along smoothly—not great—not bad—God shakes us up with a call. The difficulty is perhaps that we are often willing, even anxious, to settle for less than what God offers us. We are offered God, and want the world instead. Sometimes it takes a drastic event to prepare us to accept God’s offer.
To say, “Let it be,” means to resolve that because of circumstances beyond our control, things are going to be different than we may have anticipated. That could be a shift in our priorities. It could mean we will be embarking on new adventures. Or, it might mean our life has many surprises in store for us in the future.
God doesn’t choose the way we would. God chooses worldly weakness to proclaim divine power. That’s the reason Mary was chosen and the reason we have been chosen. An unknown teenager in an unknown, out-of-the-way place.
We share Mary’s vocation. She was chosen to bear the Savior. In our baptism, we have been appointed to do the same, to bring Christ to the world, to be Christ for the world. Mary gave Jesus a body, so do I, so do you. God has chosen us to be bearers of Christ for the world.
Perhaps we each need to ask this question. “What does God want me to do with my life and am I giving God a chance to work through me?” What is it that you can’t let go of, or, what is it you can’t say, “Let it be” to? To say, “let it be,” really means to say, “yes” to God.
The story of Mary is our story, too. Or, can be. The key is in our response. The whole story of Christmas depended upon one woman’s willingness to say, “I am the handmaid of the Lord. Let it be done to me as you say.” Are we willing to say the same?
When you are in there getting knocked around, bruised and bloodied, and you have a chance to drop out, you drop out! That’s what Robert Fulghum wanted to do. And so do I. And that's healthy psychologists tell us. The healthy person doesn't enjoy suffering. He wants to get out of it. He wants to resolve it. He wants to move the situation to something comfortable. That is why it is so difficult to identify with the Biblical Theme of voluntarily accepting the bruising and the bleeding. When we see how Jesus volunteered and accepted suffering and humiliation and death on our behalf, we discover there is no hiding place, no escape hatch, no way to get out from under, for those who want to be His disciples.
As we celebrate our final Sunday before Christmas, Mary’s willingness to say “yes” to God’s call is an example and a challenge to each of us. Am I as ready as she to say, “Yes!” to God’s call to bring Christ into the world? Am I as ready as she was to risk what doing the will of God might mean in my day-to-day life? If I can follow Mary’s example, then my life will be Christmas for my brothers and sisters, the birth of Christ in unlikely places and circumstances of the world.
We have no choice about experiencing the many interruptions of life. They come simply out of the grace of God. Your only choice is deciding if you will embrace them, allowing them to mold you into someone who looks a lot more like Jesus Christ.
Like Mary and Joseph, say "Yes" to the interruption. Don't resist it. Look for the creativity of the Holy Spirit within it. And say, "Here am I, the servant of the Lord. Let it be to me according to your word."
Let us Pray: O Lord, let it be to us according to your word – even when that word frightens us. Even when it is not the word we were expecting. I pray that we may be people who continue to trust in your word despite the inconveniences—the impossibilities and improbabilities we may think we see. Grant that like Mary we may be willing and humble servants. We ask all things through Christ Jesus, the Babe of Bethlehem, and the one who is both our brother and our Lord. Amen.
Fr. Jim is providing his sermons online during the Corona virus pandemic. Enjoy!