The Fourth Sunday in Advent
20 December 2020
2 Samuel 7: 1-11, 16
Now when the king was settled in his house, and the Lord had given him rest from all his enemies around him, 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.’ Nathan said to the king, ‘Go, do all that you have in mind; for the Lord is with you.’
But that same night the word of the Lord came to Nathan: Go and tell my servant David: Thus says the Lord: Are you the one to build me a house to live in? 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. 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?’ 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; 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. 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, 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. Your house and your kingdom shall be made sure for ever before me;* your throne shall be established for ever.
Romans 16: 25-end
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 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— to the only wise God, through Jesus Christ, to whom be the glory for ever! Amen.
Luke 1: 26-38
In the sixth month 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 he came to her and said, ‘Greetings, favoured one! The Lord is with you.’ But she was much perplexed by his words and pondered what sort of greeting this might be. The angel said to her, ‘Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favour 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 God will give to him the throne of his ancestor David. He will reign over the house of Jacob for ever, 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; and this is the sixth month for her who was said to be barren. For nothing will be impossible with 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.
My soul doth magnify the Lord.
And my spirit hath rejoiced in God my Saviour.
For he hath regarded: the lowliness of his handmaiden: For behold, from henceforth: all generations shall call me blessed.
For he that is mighty hath magnified me: and holy is his Name.
And his mercy is on them that fear him: throughout all generations.
He hath shewed strength with his arm: he hath scattered the proud in the imagination of their hearts.
He hath put down the mighty from their seat: and hath exalted the humble and meek.
He hath filled the hungry with good things: and the rich he hath sent empty away.
He remembering his mercy hath holpen his servant Israel:
As he promised to our forefathers, Abraham and his seed for ever.
God our redeemer,
who prepared the Blessed Virgin Mary
to be the mother of your Son:
grant that, as she looked for his coming as our saviour,
so we may be ready to greet him
when he comes again as our judge;
who is alive and reigns with you,
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for ever.
In our language, the same words can carry many meanings. This is the case when we use the word, ‘house’. We may think of the building we live in as a house; we may think of a church as a house of God and finally we refer to the royal family as being members of the House of Windsor.
These three uses of the word house are also part of the Hebrew language. David thought to himself how it seemed all wrong that he was living in a palace while the ark of God was carried about in a simple tent.
The prophet Nathan considered this. Then at night the Lord came to him and asked him if he had ever asked the people in Israel to build him a house of cedar. No; that was not what God wanted. He told them that He had been with them wherever they went and would always be with them. Not only would He eventually give His people a home of their own, but He would also ensure that David’s own house would last for ever.
God was not talking about a physical building, but about successive generations of his own family. As Christians, we can hear the words of that passage and immediately link the promise of David with Him who, a thousand years later, would be born of David’s line.
St Paul recognised this, as is recorded in that lovely passage from his letter to the Romans. He recognised that the coming of Jesus was the unveiling of the mystery which was kept hidden for ages. It was to Jesus that this Prophecy of Nathan’s pointed. It was with the coming of Jesus that the tapestry of prophecies all made sense.
The nature of God Himself was revealed through Jesus, who is the Messiah, the fulfilment of the prophecies of old. It is through recognising the nature of God in Jesus that we can worship Him fully.
As human beings, we are made in the image of God. It is part of our nature to want to praise and give thanks to our Creator. That is why we come together to worship Him.
It may surprise us that God Himself did not ask for a magnificent house of God to be created by David. Indeed, that was not even the first thing that God asked of David’s son Solomon. What God promised was that David’s descendants should rule. What he gave to David’s son, Solomon, was wisdom. It was simply in response to God’s love that Solomon built the temple.
I guess it was similarly in response to the love of God that our ancestors built our lovely churches as symbols of God’s faithfulness.
For God was faithful to his promise. David’s descendants went through many trials and tribulations over the next thousand years. Then, at last, we hear in Luke’s account that an angel visited a certain young woman. This young woman was engaged to Joseph, a descendant of David. God had kept His promise. Through the power of His Holy Spirit, the young woman, Mary, would conceive a son.
The boy would be holy, for He would be the Son of God. Mary would go on to marry Joseph so, to all intents and purposes, her Son would be a member of the house of David.
God’s promise was fulfilled through a very ordinary teenage girl. God’s agenda is so very different from ours. What He needed was someone who was willing to take on this awesome task, someone who would trust the words of the angel completely.
Mary was such a person. The question is; are we like that? Do we shirk at taking on the task of carrying Jesus into the world we meet every day? Do we trust the words of the angel ourselves? Before the angel left Mary, he told her that ‘Nothing will be impossible with God’. Do we believe that?