Normal Sunday Service
Sermon & Readings
Sermon and Readings 4th Sunday of Advent 24 December 2023
2 Samuel 7.1–11, 7.16
1 Now when the king was settled in his house, and the LORD had given him rest from all his enemies around him, 2 the king said to the prophet Nathan, ‘See now, I am living in a house of cedar, but the ark of God stays in a tent.’ 3 Nathan said to the king, ‘Go, do all that you have in mind; for the LORD is with you.’ 4 But that same night the word of the LORD came to Nathan: 5 Go and tell my servant David: Thus says the LORD : Are you the one to build me a house to live in? 6 I have not lived in a house since the day I brought up the people of Israel from Egypt to this day, but I have been moving about in a tent and a
tabernacle. 7 Wherever I have moved about among all the people of Israel, did I
ever speak a word with any of the tribal leaders of Israel, whom I commanded to shepherd my people Israel, saying, ‘Why have you not built me a house of cedar?’ 8 Now therefore thus you shall say to my servant David: Thus says the LORD of hosts: I took you from the pasture, from following the sheep to be prince over my people Israel; 9 and I have been with you wherever you went, and have cut off all your enemies from before you; and I will make for you a great name, like the name of the great ones of the earth. 10 And I will appoint a place for my people Israel and will plant them, so that they may live in their own place, and be disturbed no more; and evildoers shall afflict them no more, as formerly, 11 from the time that I appointed judges over my people Israel; and I will give you rest from all your enemies. Moreover, the LORD declares to you that the LORD will make you a house. 16 Your house and your kingdom shall be made sure for ever before me; your throne shall be established for ever.
Psalm 89.1–4, 89.19–27
1 Lord, I will sing for ever of your loving-kindnesses:
my mouth shall proclaim your faithfulness throughout all generations.
2 I have said of your loving-kindness that it is built for ever: you have established your faithfulness in the heavens.
3 The Lord said ‘I have made a covenant with my chosen: I have sworn an oath to my servant David.
4 ‘I will establish your line for ever:
and build up your throne for all generations.’
19 You spoke once in a vision:
and said to your faithful one,
20 ‘I have set a youth above a warrior:
I have exalted a young man out of the people.
21 ‘I have found my servant David:
and anointed him with my holy oil.
22 ‘My hand shall uphold him:
and my arm shall strengthen him.
23 ‘No enemy shall deceive him: nor shall the wicked hurt him.
24 ‘I will crush his adversaries before him: and strike down those that hate him.
25 ‘My faithfulness and loving-kindness shall be with him: and through my name his head shall be lifted high.
26 ‘I will set the hand of his dominion upon the Western Sea:
and his right hand shall stretch to the streams of Mesopotamia.
27 ‘He will call to me “You are my Father: my God, and the Rock of my salvation.”
25 Now to God who is able to strengthen you according to my gospel and the proclamation of Jesus Christ, according to the revelation of the mystery that was kept secret for long ages 26 but is now disclosed, and through the prophetic writings is made known to all the Gentiles, according to the command of the eternal God, to bring about the obedience of faith— 27 to the only wise God, through Jesus Christ, to whom be the glory for ever! Amen.
26 In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent by God to a town in Galilee called Nazareth, 27 to a virgin engaged to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. The virgin’s name was Mary. 28 And he came to her and said, ‘Greetings, favoured one! The Lord is with you.’ 29 But she was much perplexed by his words and pondered what sort of greeting this might be. 30 The angel said to her, ‘Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favour with God. 31 And now,
you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you will name him
Jesus. 32 He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most-High, and the Lord God will give to him the throne of his ancestor David. 33 He will reign over the house of Jacob for ever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.’ 34 Mary said to the angel, ‘How can this be, since I am a virgin?’ 35 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. 36 And now, your relative Elizabeth in her old age has also conceived
a son; and this is the sixth month for her who was said to be barren. 37 For nothing will be impossible with God.’ 38 Then Mary said, ‘Here am I, the servant of the Lord; let it be with me according to your word.’ Then the angel departed from her.
Paul McCartney doesn’t claim to be a theologian, but every once in a while, even a onetime Beatle and rock and roll composer can stumble onto something insightful. Way back in the 1960’s he wrote these lyrics:
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, let it be.
Whisper words of wisdom, let it be.
I’ve heard these lyrics hundreds of times over my lifetime and you’ve undoubtedly heard them numerous times, too, but it only struck to me a few days ago that they were taken from Luke 1:38:
Then Mary said, “Here I am, the servant of the Lord; let it be with me according to your word.”
They are modest words, but words of great wisdom ... and faith.
We know barley all about the mother of Jesus, even though she has been
revered by millions of people over the centuries. The Bible doesn’t say a lot about her, but we know that when an angel named Gabriel visited this poor, young, unmarried, scared girl and gave her the most unbelievable news anyone has ever heard, she simply said, “Let it be.”
Incidentally, this once ordinary woman had a lot in common with other great people of the Bible like Noah, Abraham, Sarah, Ruth and Moses. Like these ordinary folk, Mary simply said “yes” to God’s call. Yet the Lord had some great things for them to do, each of them simply said, “Let it be.”
We don’t have to be great theologians of biblical proportions to get it right and we don’t have to be great people in the eyes of the world, we just have to be willing people, people who say “yes” to God. From there, God will show the way. In our hour of darkness, there are words of wisdom whispered bearing light and hope. Mary spoke them, we can speak them, too:
“Here I am, the servant of the Lord; let it be with me according to your word.”
And Paul McCartney says
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, let it be, let it be, let it be Whisper words of wisdom, let it be
And when the broken-hearted people Living in the world agree
There will be an answer, let it be
For though they may be parted there is still a chance that they will see
There will be an answer, let it be
Let it be, let it be, let it be, let it be
yeah, there will be an answer, let it be
And when the night is cloudy
There is still a light that shines on me Shine until tomorrow, let it be
I wake up to the sound of music Mother Mary comes to me
Speaking words of wisdom, let it be Let it be, let it be, let it be, let it be There will be an answer, let it be
Let it be is a favourite Beatle song for countless folks. It was written by Paul McCartney in 1969. It begins with Paul saying how when he finds himself in times of trouble, "Mother Mary" comes to him.
I had always thought that Mary in the song meant the virgin Mary, the mother of Jesus. But as it turns out Paul’s mother was also named Mary, and she died when he was a young boy. In the song Mary comes like an angel whispering to him these wise words-- let it be.
"Let it be" in these circumstances is comforting and means "Let go . . . don’t worry about your troubles.
Christians over the years have revered Mary. But we must be careful; Jesus the Christ is the Comforter. He sends the Spirit to us in trouble. We pray with the saints in glory, but it is our Lord who dishes out the gifts, the graces that brighten our lives and strengthens our hearts.
It was beneficial for us that Paul McCartney had a mother named Mary who he could hear whispering in his ear when he was troubled as she did when he was a child. I’m not advocating spiritualism here, nor do I think Paul McCartney was. This is a common experience to all humankind, we remember those who were nearest to us, especially when we are in trouble. We look back in our memories for our parent’s counsel and example, how did they handle things? And that does help.
But when we run out of help from all of our earthly connections, like Mary the Mother of Jesus we can turn to God and say, "I’m troubled here. I have no answers. Let it be Lord, let your will be done."
That message is also in Paul’s song. He lifts the listener up and out of their own life, soon he is singing about all the broken-hearted people in the world, people who hate each other or are at war. "Although they may be parted, there is still a chance that they will see. There will be an answer-- Let it be."
This time the words "Let it be" have a different meaning. "Let it be" here does not mean to just accept bad things. It means "let it happen"-- let some new world, a happier and more peaceful world, become a reality.
When Paul wrote this song in 1969 there was violence in Ireland, wars happening in Vietnam and around the world. So he was speaking about sad and angry people who are fighting one another. We still have situations like this today, with broken-hearted people fighting each other in Russia, the Ukraine, Sudan and South Sudan, Palestine and Israel.
Paul McCartney’s song tells us long for peace.
I have often wondered over the years, where are the successors to those singers of the sixties and seventies who had visions of a peaceful world? Are we so hardened, so calloused, so disillusioned that we cannot even hope or sing of a better world?
We should be thankful to Mary the mother of Paul McCartney for saying “Let it be,” but consider how sort of apathetic it is to give in to what the world presents to how it differs from that of Mary the mother of Jesus.
Mary the mother of Jesus though not understanding the mystery that was presented her trusted God that it was good and said, “Let it be according to your word, not according to my troubled thoughts.”
Her affirmation is what we need now. We few workers, we few Christians in this world should affirm along with Mary, “Let it be – the coming of the Kingdom of our Lord. Let it be that the Good News will reach everyone in this city. Let it be that we will find daily bread for all and peace at last on this earth.” Let God’s will be done.
Now to God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit be ascribed, as is most justly due, all might, majesty and glory in the Church throughout all ages. Amen.