FOURTH SUNDAY OF ADVENT (2020)
Readings: 2 Samuel 7:1-5, 8-11, 16 Psalms 89:2-5, 27, 29 Romans 16:25-27 Luke 1:26-38
We come from a long line of people trying to contain/control the God they worship.
Since the burning bush was too impractical to carry around, the Israelites carried around the tablets (Ten Commandments) given to Moses on God’s holy mountain. The descendants of Levi, so successful were they in slaughtering the worshippers of the golden calf, were given the responsibility of caring for the precious tablets, which were carried from place to place under a tented ‘tabernacle,’ a portable earthly dwelling place for Yahweh, the God of Israel. A priestly class grew to accommodate the affairs of God, whether it was in a tabernacle or in a Temple.
Our first reading from the second book of Samuel relates the discomfort that the great King David felt because he lived “in a house of cedar, while the ark of God dwells in a tent.” Understandably, David leans towards building a more permanent place for God to dwell, and he shares his thoughts with the prophet Nathan, who tells David to do as he pleases. But the Lord intervenes, and lets Nathan know that he should tell David, ‘you’re building a house for me? For me?’ The God who created the heavens and the earth makes it clear to David that God is in charge, and God will “establish a house” for David, a house not made of wood or stone, but a house that “will stand firm forever.” [It is David’s son, Solomon, who will build the first Temple for God to dwell in, but in generations it will be clear that the “house” God will establish has nothing to do with wood or stone.]
The “revelation of the mystery kept secret for long ages” (Rom. 16:26) begins with a simple hello, “Ave!,” “Hail.” God had Mary “at hello,” not because she was gullible or prone to miraculous interventions, but because she had been in love with the God of her worship for some fifteen or more years. God had prepared Mary from time immemorial (Immaculate Conception), freeing her from original sin in order that she might be the best of houses for a God who would take on human flesh and become one of us. What God said to Mary through the angel Gabriel, He says to all of us when He intervenes in our lives: “Do not be afraid.”
God’s interventions can be “troubling,” but this intervention will be momentous and lead to the salvation of all peoples. Mary understands very little of what is happening, hence “how can this be, since I have no relations with a man.” Her child, however, “will be called holy, the Son of God.” What Mary intuitively knew, that “nothing is impossible for the God” of the Jews, leads Mary to embrace her role in God’s plan: “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord. May it be done to me according to your word.”
On this penultimate Sunday before the great celebration of Christmas we are given the example of Mary to emulate. Her openness to God’s plan and her cooperation with His will for her, serves as an example for us, and points to the reality that no church, no house of brick or mortar, can contain the God we worship. The God who made a home in the womb of Mary in order to dwell among the people He created, dwells within the hearts and souls of His most precious works of creation. God dwells and inspires all of us from within, and God is not confined by, or controlled by tabernacles of Temples. God’s long-awaited, yet unassuming, entrance into our world, allows God to be with us until the end of time. He is “Emmanuel, God with us!” Whether God communicates with us directly or uses the angels who surround us, it is up to us to respond to God as Mary did: “Behold we are servants of the Lord. May it be done to us according to God’s word.”