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The word this week

We can never adequately prepare for the coming of the Lord

Fourth Sunday of Advent: 2 Sam 7:1-5 & 8-11; Rm 16:25-27; Lk 1:26-38

By on Sunday, 18 December 2011

The concluding Sunday of Advent calls us to welcome and celebration. It urges us to display a spirit of welcome because, as we prepare for the Lord’s second coming, we search for his presence in the routines of daily life. And it urges us to display a spirit of celebration because these days prepare us for the celebration of Christ’s first coming at Christmas.

The narrative of the promises made to King David put into perspective our own preparations throughout Advent and leading into Christmas. King David, at the end of his successful military campaigns, laid his plans before the prophet Nathan. In gratitude for God’s assistance to his people he proposed to build a magnificent temple, a temple that would become a symbol of God’s presence with his people.

The response that King David received, while surprising, is a commentary on our own preparations to celebrate the coming of Christ at Christmas. The splendour of God’s coming, when he came among his people, would reach far beyond David’s imagination. The God of Israel could not be contained within any building proposed by the King, however magnificent. This God would find his place at the heart of his people, would make his dwelling in the flesh and blood of David’s descendants. “I will provide a place for my people Israel. The Lord will make you a House. I will preserve the offspring of your body after you. I will be a father to him and he a son to me. Your house and your sovereignty will always stand secure before me.”

The promises made to King David were fulfilled in the birth of Christ as a child of David’s line. The unfolding of the promise reminds us that we, like King David, can never adequately prepare for the coming of the Lord. King David surrendered his plans to God’s promise. As we approach Christmas our final preparation must be the surrender of our limited hopes, allowing God to work within us the wonder of his coming.

The angel Gabriel’s annunciation to Mary echoed the promises made to David. The child entrusted to her womb would be called Son of the Most High and the Lord would give him the throne of his ancestor David. Mary’s surrender to the will of God enabled a fulfilment far beyond King David’s imagining. The humanity of David’s line, not some man-made temple, would become the safe place that God would provide for his dwelling.

David’s son, the great King Solomon, eventually built the splendid temple that David had proposed. Magnificent though that temple was, it remained but a shadow of the greater splendour that was to come with the birth of Christ. In response to Mary’s question, how can this come about, the angel Gabriel spoke of the Holy Spirit that would come upon her and the power of the Most High would cover her with its shadow.

The words deliberately echoed the language used to describe the glory of God’s presence both to Moses on Mount Sinai and as the Lord entered his temple in Jerusalem. In Mary the Father chose our broken humanity as the dwelling place for his Son.
During these last days before Christmas let us, with Mary, entrust our doubts and uncertainties, our disappointments and sinfulness, to the Lord’s coming. Let us know, with her, that nothing is impossible to God.