Let It Be So!
“The Lord is with you!” What an incredible statement! “The Lord is with you.” Great statesmen, great soldiers, people in high places everywhere have yearned to hear those words. Indeed, many may have thought that they had heard it, that Yahweh had heard their pleas and was prepared to bless their plans and their ambitions.
But that word did not come to Caesar Augustus, supreme ruler of that vast empire. It did not come to Herod, the territorial king. It did not come to the High Priest. In fact, it did not come to anyone who was mighty at all.
No, the word did not come to such as these. Instead, it came to a frightened and awe-struck teenage girl, in a small village, in a remote backwater area of an obscure province of that empire.
What was there about Mary that caused her to be chosen?
Why not some woman of great importance – so that all who saw it could marvel at the power of God? Wouldn’t that have facilitated the bringing in of the kingdom of God?
So, why the obscurity?
We can only guess at the reason. But remember, this is a God who has said that God does not work in conventional ways: “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways says the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.” (Isaiah 55:8-9).
This is a God whose word comes out of a burning bush to a shepherd in remote Sinai – rather than to the great Pharaoh. This is a God who speaks to the child Samuel – rather than the high priest, Eli. This is a God whose word comes to Elijah, not in the fire and not in the whirlwind, but in a still small voice.
And yet, this still small voice can be ever so terrifying. I can just imagine that Mary must have been thunderstruck.
Yet, there is in her openness to God’s presence and will, such strength that not only does the word come to her, but she consents to its demand.
Perhaps this is the “something” about Mary that caused the word to come to her. Perhaps it was the openness about her to the presence of God, an openness in spite of the risks and inconvenience and consequence.
A frightened teenager, committed to a marriage that was yet to come, must have foreseen the trouble such a pregnancy would cause. In our day and age, perhaps it is difficult for us to imagine what it would have been like for her. You see, pregnancy before marriage in those days was punishable by death! That’s right! Joseph could have had her dragged out into the public square and stoned her to death!
So, what sort of story would she have to concoct? Would she be punished? Mary had to deal with the problem – in her time and place. Yet she accepted the statement of the angel, and she dealt with it.
And yet today, the important point remains: The Lord is with you.
Now, I know that you and I are often aware of the presence of God. We can sense the presence in a beautiful sunset, in a quiet forest, in the Holy Eucharist. We can sense the presence of God in beautiful music (like the music that we hear each week in our worship), and in any environment when our souls are calmed.
It is less easy, however, to sense the presence of God in a busy city, or on a bus, or driving along Pellissippi Highway, or cooking in the kitchen. It is less easy because at these times we are preoccupied with other tasks. We are concentrating on them and we are less able to concentrate on God. But God is still present. Yes, even in these situations, the Lord is with us.
And so, we can only speculate about the time when the word of God came to Mary. Perhaps it was in her room in Nazareth. Perhaps it was on her way to the well to draw water. Who knows? All that we can say with certainty is that she was open to God’s plan for her.
And so, we have come to another important point in our text for today: not only was she aware of the presence of God, but she was also open to God’s plan.
Too often you and I are not! Too often we are involved in our own self-centeredness, in our own rigid egos, and it prevents us from being open to God’s word and God’s will. It prevents us from being open, even more so, than does the roar of traffic or the everyday noises of life.
And yet, there is another problem. We like to think that our own egos, our own narrow goals, are somehow God’s will. Remember that all of the nations involved in the First World War and many other wars and skirmishes – Germany, France, Russia, Great Britain – all of them were firmly convinced that God was on their side. And what of our modern-day Caesars and Herods? Does the word of God come to them? Let us hope and pray that it does.
However, in the days of Herod, the word of God came to a frightened teenage girl, in a remote corner of a mighty empire. And the young girl’s response was this: “Yes, Lord. Let it be so!”
And this young girl found out, that for those who say “Yes” to the word of God, life is never the same again.
And so, I say again to you: The Lord is with you! Through all the pains and joys of this Christmastime. Yes, even here in this obscure part of our own great nation and during this challenging time of enduring the continued spread of the coronavirus.
The Lord is with you.
And with that statement I pose this question: Are we, like Mary, open to the Lord’s presence?
And if so, just how is that presence made manifest in our lives – and even more importantly, will we, like Mary, be daring enough to say: “Yes, Lord. Let it be so!”?