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…. 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.
–Luke 1:35, 38
“Let it be.” These are words of faith in their most distilled form.
The angel Gabriel comes to Mary and tells her that she will bear the savior of the world. Mary is understandably confused. She asks, “How can this be?” And then, after some consideration, she says three very simple words that changed her life and the course of human history. “Let it be…” (Luke 1:38)
The Beatles song, “Let it Be,” echoes this event:
“When I find myself in times of trouble,
Mother Mary comes to me.
Speaking words of wisdom.
Let it be, Let it be…”
As a rule, Street Psalms is an active network that makes things happen. We come out of the prophetic tradition and are very much concerned with issues of social justice. Nobody has accused us of being overly contemplative. Perhaps that is why the words of Mother Mary are so challenging. She reminds us that transformation is not something that we can either will or work into existence – ever. It is always a gift. At its most fundamental level, the transformative power of the Gospel is something we accept, receive, and let happen.
The problem, of course, is that Mary’s words, like so many words in Scripture, are easily distorted. In the mouths of the mainstream, “let it be” can easily become a cover up for the status quo. It can easily mean, “We like the way things are, so let it be.” On the other hand, in the mouths of the marginalized, “let it be” can easily become an utterance of despair, resignation, and fatalism. It can easily mean, “We are tired and things will never change, so let it be.” Mary’s words (the Beatles’s too) resist both temptations. They offer us another way.
As I see it, the key to understanding Mary (and the Beatles) is in the word “it.” When she says, “let it be,” the “it” that she is referring to is not the external conditions of the world she inhabits – a world enslaved by violence. The “it” that she is referring to is the goodness and grace of God’s favor on the world she inhabits, and the mystery by which that favor will be demonstrated in Christ. God’s favor is the “it” – the only “it” that we are called to accept and let be.
Check out this clip from the movie Across the Universe. It beautifully, if painfully, highlights the tension in Mary’s words. The scene is set against the backdrop of the Vietnam War and the tumultuous 1960s when the Beatles wrote their song. Hear it as a prayer – a prayer for God’s favor. Hear afresh the words of Mary this Christmas, as God’s favor in Christ draws near again: “Let it be.”
Photo: “Let it be + Come together, John-Lennon-Wall, detail, Prague” photo by helst1 – off for some days (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)