4th Sunday of Advent “B” – Fr. Rick Sherman
2 SM 7:1-5, 8B-12, 14A, 16; PS 89:2-3, 4-5, 27, 29; ROM 16:25-27; LK 1:26-38
December 20, 2020
The readings today keep reminding us that this is GOD’s world and HE has a plan to save us….
Let’s start by going back to the Old Testament reading from 2 Samuel:
2 Sam 7
Nathan answered the king, “Go, do whatever you have in mind,
for the LORD is with you.” (Notice how quickly humans ‘take charge’ of things). But that night the LORD spoke to Nathan and said: “Go, tell my servant David, ‘Thus says the LORD: Should you build me a house to dwell in?’ “
“‘It was I who took you from the pasture and from the care of the flock to be commander of my people Israel. I have been with you wherever you went,
and I have destroyed all your enemies before you. And I will make you famous like the great ones of the earth. I will fix a place for my people Israel; I will plant them so that they may dwell in their place without further disturbance.
Strangely this might make us a little uncomfortable. All this emphasis by God on what GOD has done and what GOD will do sounds ultimately like HE is in charge. What if that’s true? How do we know if we are actually following God? How do we know if other members of the community are following God? Do we all have the same understanding of God’s movement and call in our lives?
Then the prophet goes on: “The LORD also reveals to you that HE will establish a house for you. Likewise, God has established a Church for us… to be used in a certain way… for a specific mission in the world. To continue the building. Not just a ‘house’, but an entire Kingdom. GOD’S Kingdom.
That should be pretty good news since it seems that humans are a bit baffled about what to do next. We are facing some very big challenges with the pandemic, the economy, now the big hack on our computer systems. It’s hard to think of what could make us feel more vulnerable. Further draughts, perhaps?
We can be sure that God has been with us every step of the way. As He told David, “I have been with you wherever you went….”
The psalm reassures us that God’s ‘kindness is established forever.’ And again, He assures us, “Forever will I confirm your posterity and establish your throne for all generations.” Even up until now.
This should give us a sense of peace and confidence IF we actually believe that God will be true to His promises. I recently read a quote from the 19th century Protestant minister, Adoniram Judson, who said, “The future is as bright as the promises of God.” The fact that the Church even exists at all after our 4000 years of tumultuous history should give some proof of God’s fidelity.
But of course, God does not let us just sit back and wait for Him to fix everything. In the psalm David promises back to God that their covenant, a two-way commitment, will stand firm. It stays firm when we actually let God be in charge. We see again in the Gospel today that God is acting very personally in history, but He will rely on us to say YES to His plan and timing.
And the angel said to Mary in reply, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. (God’s power, not Mary’s). Therefore, the child to be born will be called holy, the Son of God. He would be named Jesus. And behold, Elizabeth, your relative, has also conceived a son in her old age, and this is the sixth month for her who was called barren; for nothing will be impossible for God.” (OK, so God is initiating the next major part of His plan that could never even have been conceived by the human mind. He is working profound miracles among several people whose relationships and offspring will be critical to the plan). And Mary said, “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord. (Even though she’s without sin, she is not in charge). “May it be done to me according to your word,” is her reply.
May it be done to me according to your word. Even though Mary seems to say, YES rather quickly, her head must have been spinning. She was deeply troubled it says and no doubt awed by the sudden presence and grandeur of the archangel, a heavenly creature of another world. Her reaction compelled the angel to say, “Do not be afraid”. One wonders what Elizabeth’s first reaction was when she realized “in her old age” that she was pregnant. It might have been something like, “Be careful what you pray for, you might get it.”
The whole process of pregnancy was not just uncomfortable, but quite dangerous and even life threatening back in those days. The very miracle of conception under any circumstances must be quite humbling along with the pain and reduced mobility. It’s like God is saying, “Really, I’ve got this,” but the full gestation period must be endured and then the day-to-day exercise of raising a child. One must be fully engaged – body, mind and spirit- fully involved, to participate in such an endeavor. To bring not just a life into the world, but the Life and Light of the world….
Each Advent we are recalled into these last few weeks of gestation period. We too are to bring Christ into the world and to be actively involved in the day-to-day exercise of home building and kingdom building. Elizabeth did not get a child because she really REALLY wanted one. She received a child because Jesus would need someone to announce His coming and to make the distinction between the law and the Spirit. It was Elizabeth’s long, extended period of yearning that actually prepared her for this unthinkable miracle and the challenges it would bring. Terrified? Yes. Ready for the mission? Yes. It was God’s plan and He promised to be faithful.
So there’s a 100% chance that God is calling each one of us to bring His Son into the world in a unique way during this holy season. The world needs the Son’s personal presence during this confusing, frightening and disruptive time in human history. Our families, Church, nation and world need our YES.
As we scramble to try and make Christmas feel warm and familiar, let’s also take some time and sit quietly and welcome the changes that God is going to bring about.