The collect and readings for the Fourth Sunday of Advent may be found here. The following sermon focuses on Luke 1:26-28.
What do you want to be when you grow up? It’s a common question. It was probably asked of us in our younger years. We ask it of our children and grandchildren. It is not, however, a question limited to a particular age. It may be common but it is not necessarily simple. Some of us are still trying to answer that question.
I often tell my wife, “I should have been a helicopter pilot.” Last week it was truck driver; me in an eighteen wheeler going cross country. For years I have thought about being a monk. And here’s the best one. I want to be a rock star. It doesn’t matter that I can neither sing nor play. I want to be a rock star with a band, a bus, and groupies. At one level these are silly fantasies. At another level they point to the assumption that we are responsible for creating the life we want.
Look at your relationships, friendships, your family and marriage, your jobs and careers, your education, your home. All of those are attempts to create your life. That is not necessarily wrong. We have decisions to make and opportunities before us. The difficulty comes when we start to believe and carry the burden that we are the ultimate creator of our life. Seems that is what happened to King David when he decided that God needed a big fine cedar house like his. David was convinced that he was the one to build a house for God. Until God said, “No.” God reminded David that God is the builder and creator of life. It has been that way from the beginning.
For in the beginning, God said and there was. God said let there be light and there was, let there be sky, dry land, earth that brings forth vegetation, fish that fill the waters, a sun and a moon. Let us create humankind in our image and likeness. God said let there be all these things and there was all those things. Creation is the larger context for today’s gospel, the Annunciation to Mary.
God speaks the creative word. Today, however, we remember Mary’s words, “Let it be.” “Let it be with me according to your word.” Mary’s words, “Let it be,” echo God’s words, “Let there be.” It is like an ongoing call and response between God and humanity. God prays creation into existence and Mary says, “Amen. Let it be.” This is not an ending to the creation story but the continuation of creation and the beginning of our salvation. Think about this. God says, “Let there be” and his words bring forth creatures into the world. Mary says, “Let it be” and her words will bring forth the Creator into the world. How amazing is that?
Jesus is able to take flesh because Mary’s humanity gives him that possibility. This could only happen with Mary’s “Let it be.” Her gift to God is her humanity and through her our humanity. The incarnation of God in Jesus is not, however, limited to Mary. It is an affirmation of God’s creation and the goodness of humanity. God chooses human flesh, not a cedar house, as the place of God’s dwelling. Each one of us can stand as the “favored one,” the one with whom God is. Each of us is called to grow up to be God-bearers, to carry the life of God within our own humanity.
Mary is a part of us. She is that part of us that is womb-like, the part that gives birth to Christ in our world. To reject Mary is to say no to God. To reject Mary is to reject the holy of holies within us. To reject Mary is to end the ongoing story of creation and salvation. To love and venerate Mary, however, is to discover the life God is creating in us and who are to be when we grow up. Mary teaches us how to say, “Yes.”
Each one of us is to echo Mary’s words, “Let it be.” Don’t hear this as passivity. This is not a “que sera, sera” attitude. It means we must be vulnerable, open, receptive. It means that we must let down the veils that we think separate us. Mary sees her virginity as a veil of separation. “How can this be, since I am a virgin?” Not only that, but Mary is weaving a new veil for the temple.
Sacred tradition says that Mary was one of the virgins chosen to weave a new veil for the temple. The veil was the curtain that separated humanity from the holy of holies, the place that God lived. Neither the temple veil nor Mary’s virginity, however, can separate God from humanity. As the Archangel Gabriel declares, “Nothing will be impossible with God.”
We all live with veils that we think separate us from God. There are veils of fear, shame, and guilt. Independence and individualism become veils of isolation. Sometimes we are veiled in logic, rationalism, and unable or unwilling to abandon ourselves to the mystery. Often our veils are the life we have created for ourselves.
God looks through our veils to see the “favored one” even when we cannot see ourselves that way. God’s words of possibility speak across our veils announcing that God is with us and that we will conceive within us God’s own life. God is always stepping through our veils to choose us as God’s dwelling place.
“How can this be?” With those words Mary acknowledges that the life Gabriel announces is not the life she was creating for herself. “Let it be.” With those words Mary receives the life God is creating in her. Between “How can this be?” and “Let it be” the impossible becomes a reality, the never before heard of will forever be spoken of, and the veil between divinity and humanity has fallen.
Offer whatever excuses, reasons, and veils you have why this cannot be true for you. Gabriel will tell you differently. “Nothing will be impossible with God.”