Let it be. Let it be to me. Let it be to me according to Your will. In another translation (New Jerusalem), it says, “Let it happen to me as You have said.” Mary’s agreement to give her life over to the will and plan of God is an act of whole-hearted submission.
Now, submission is not a word that most westerners like to accept. Submission is the epitome of a life lived in fear. Submission is cowering weakness, a refusal to use the power and influence that we have been blessed with.
Submission is the beaten wife taking it once again without trying to save herself or her children. Submission is letting tyrants in their arrogance and injustice reign. A person is beaten into submission. This should never be allowed to happen.
But there is another form of submission. The best example I could think of is when we are in the middle of a really good conversation. Our friend, our spouse, our children speak out of the honesty of their hearts, and we listen intently. Not listening while forming an argument with which to confound their words, but listening with an open heart that is trying to hear the truth, the wisdom, the heart in the other persons words.
When we listen, we are neither defensive or on the offensive. We are neither passive nor aggressive. We are actively listening, participating in discovering the other person’s truth. And that is submission in the Biblical sense. Giving ourselves over to the other person. Or in Mary’s case, giving herself over to God.
She’s not asking, “What’s in it for me,” or trying to form arguments about the wisdom of God’s plan, or trying to find a better way to do it, or a good reason not to do it. No, she listens with an open, undefensive heart, and says: Let it be. Let it be to me. Let it be to me according to Your will, O God.
Now if Joseph had come up with this great plan to impregnate her before they were married, she would have slapped his face and stormed off. She could have listened carefully, attentively, trying to hear his truth like any good listener. But maybe what she was hearing was that he was a filthy old goat trying to take advantage of her!
And she’d slap his face and storm off. Why didn’t she do the same with God? Good question!
Had she listened deeply to the angel’s words, and heard the truth and wisdom of God in them? Had they sounded frightening, but also like this was her grand purpose in life?
Because what the angel was suggesting was totally against everything that she had been taught. Become pregnant before she was married: that’s fornication. And because she was engaged, that’s also adultery. Women who are adulterers are banned from the community thrown out into the unprotected wilderness to live or die as they will. Women who are adulterers are taken into the public square and stoned to death.
Joseph, who in fact was a loving and righteous man, and would never have suggested premarital sex, was going to try to do the merciful thing, which was to just quietly divorce her- not put her shame in the public eye.
But God spoke to Joseph as well: This is My doing, says God. She will be your wife, and the Child born will be your child, the Son of Joseph, and the Son of God.
Mary had said, “Let it be to me according to Your will”; Joseph did the same. Two people, submitting to the will of a loving God trying to save the world. And their part in it was to raise this Child until He could take His place in God’s salvation also.
Let it be. Let it be to me. Let it be to me according to Your will. About 50 years later, the Apostle Paul,
who also submitted to the will of God on the rod to Damascus, wrote to the church in Rome: “We know that all things work together for good to those who love God, and are called according to God’s purposes.” (Romans 8:28)
And when the Angel Gabriel came to Mary, before he dropped this bombshell on her, he said, “Be not afraid.”
And when the Lord came in a dream to Joseph, the first thing God said was, “Be not afraid.”
And when God came to Abraham, to Moses, to the prophets, to the shepherds keeping watch over their flocks by night, God always said the same thing:“Be not afraid.”
My will shall be done through you, but don’t be afraid, for I am with you. And what are these faithful peoples’ reply? Psalm 121 was on their hearts: “I lift up my eyes to the hills; where does my help come from? My help comes from the Lord, who made heaven and earth. The God who watches you does not sleep, beside you always like a shadow.”
Be not afraid. Trust. Give yourself over to my vision. For all things work together for good to those who love God, and are called according to God’s purposes.
A couple of weeks ago, the front sign Donna put up said, “Everything you’ve ever wanted is on the other side of fear.” Everything we’ve ever wanted- the purpose of our lives, the fulfillment of our lives, our greatest blessing… is on the other side of fear. And this got me thinking. How do we know if God is calling us? How do we know if we are being asked to submit to God’s will?
And then I thought about fear- that dark menace which wants to drive us, to keep us apart, to keep us safe. And I got to thinking that maybe fear is the thing that can show us into God’s intent. 2 Timothy 1:17 says- “God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.”
Are the things we fear keeping the world in bondage to injustice and hard-heartedness? Is God asking us to listen to the things we fear, and address them? Is the gift that God has given us… power, and love, and a sound mind in the face of fear? And in examining our fear, God will speak to us in words sure and clear: Be not afraid, for I need you to do my will.
Submission is not a bad word; it is a word that offers us freedom and purpose.
Let it be. Let it be to us. Let it be to us according to Your will, Lord.
In the Name of the One who holds us, and will never let us go: even Jesus the Christ. Amen.
SCRIPTURE FOR DECEMBER 15, 2019 LUKE 1:26-38
In the sixth month of Elizabeth’s pregnancy, the angel Gabriel was sent by God to a town in Galilee called Nazareth, to a virgin engaged to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. The virgin’s name was Mary. And the angel Gabriel came to her and said, “Greetings, favored one! The Lord is with you.” But Mary was much perplexed by the angel’s words, and pondered what sort of greeting this might be.
The angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. And now, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you will name Him Jesus. He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Most High, and the Lord will give to Him the throne of his ancestor David. He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of His kingdom there will be no end.” Mary said to the angel, “How can this be, since I am a virgin?” The angel said to her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be holy. He will be called Son of God. And now, your relative Elizabeth in her old age has also conceived a son; she who was called barren is now in the sixth month of her pregnancy. For nothing is impossible with God.
Then Mary said, “Here I am, the servant of the Lord; let it be with me according to your word. Then the angel departed from her.
Friends, listen to what the Spirit would say to us today.