Advent 4 Study

ADVENT 4   12-20-2020

FIRST READING:  2 Samuel 7:1-11, 16

It all revolved around a house. When King David was secure in his, he observed that the Lord God had none. David therefore resolved to build the Lord a proper house, a Temple for the Ark, in the newly established capital of Jerusalem.

David was one of those exceptional persons who never seemed to fail, never had anyone say no to him. He courageously took on and defeated Goliath (1 Samuel 17)… outwitted the Philistines (1 Samuel 27and 30)… and won the loyalty of the northern Israelites, usually unwilling to be ruled by someone from the southern tribe of Judah. He mustered exceptional loyalty from his soldiers and conquered a city like Jerusalem, considered to be impregnable for the 200 years since the first conquest of the land under Joshua (2 Samuel 5:6-12). Even in love, David overcame impossible odds to win Michal, King Saul’s daughter, as his wife (1 Samuel 18:20-29). And now he wanted to build a temple for God in Jerusalem.

At first the prophet Nathan replied, “Do whatever you have in mind.” But that same night he brought a different word from God. The Lord had never requested a house, nor would David build one for God. [In verses 12-15 we discover that David’s son would build a house for God.] In fact, the very opposite would be true: God would build David a house! Here we are speaking about more than a building. David’s house – that is, his family tree – would be established by God as a dynasty forever. This promise became one of the “golden threads” of the Hebrew Scriptures, recalled in later history writing, the psalms (see especially Psalm 89), and the prophets. It was probably initially understood in a successive way, so that each descendent from David’s line coming to the throne affirmed the validity of God’s promise. But later in Israel’s history would come times when there would be no throne and no offspring of David’s ruling from a throne. Then a new “messianic” understanding began to surface: From David’s family tree would emerge a new branch (Isaiah 11:1; Jeremiah 23:5) or even a new David (Micah 5:2) who would reign in peace and righteousness forever. The people of Israel remembered this promise and continued to hope for a king, the messiah, God’s anointed.

In today’s Gospel the angel tells Mary that God will give David’s throne to her yet-to-be-born son Jesus!

What longlasting promises or dreams have kept you going in life?

In verses 6-7 God speaks of living “in a tent” to be present in the midst of the people during their journey from Egypt to the Promised Land – directing, protecting, loving. Have you ever thought of God as being that near to you, that intimate with you along your life’s journey? In the Gospel of John 1:14 the Greek says, “the Word became flesh and PITCHED HIS TENT among us.”

SECOND READING:  Romans 16:25-27

In this conclusion to his Letter to the Romans Paul gives God praise for what God does: God is able to strengthen, God is able to save! Throughout this entire letter Paul has continued to be amazed by but also committed to God’s divine mercy and saving love being extended to the Gentiles, that is, to all humanity and not just to the Jewish covenant community. This promised divine plan of inclusion was extended to everyone through the life, death, and resurrection of the person Jesus Christ… and has been proclaimed by Paul as he preached and taught the gospel of Jesus Christ… and was also announced in the prophetic writings of the Old Testament.

Pass the word – God is reaching out to ALL PEOPLE!

Paul was converted from a proud, legalistic, and exclusive Jewish faith and life to a Christian ministry as, in his own words, “an apostle to the Gentiles”.  It was such a huge transformation in his life! It changed how he viewed and interacted with people who were not Jewish. Who are “the Gentiles” in our own day? Who are the people we consider to be outside divine blessing? Perhaps they are people of a different race, social class, religion, or sexual orientation? It what ways might we be someone else’s “Gentile”? In prayer, imagine all people being accepted by God, including you. What would that look like, feel like? How would you behave differently?

God – through Jesus Christ – is able to strengthen you, to save you, and to change how you view and interact with others! We should join Paul and many other Christians and the “multitude of the  heavenly host” in singing “GLORY TO GOD IN THE HIGHEST!”

GOSPEL READING:  Luke 1:26-38

Luke’s Gospel opens with heavenly visitations. God intervenes to set the story of salvation in motion. The same heavenly messenger who spoke to Zechariah in the Temple – that his wife Elizabeth would have a son in her old age – now tells a young woman that she has been chosen to bear and give birth to the Savior of the world.  One woman had remained childless for too many years. The other is betrothed but still a virgin. Now both wombs are surprisingly pregnant with the promise of new life. And so is the world. And so, by God’s grace, are you. For you have found favor with God. The invitation to soul and mind and body to the mystery and the word of God, as well as the opportunity to become a servant of God and a bearer of good news, are yours. Listen from your heart. Dance from the depths of your soul. Nothing will be impossible with God. Surrender to the surprise! Make space for Jesus Christ! 

In this announcement, Luke makes clear that God comes with good news for ordinary people from little known places. Mary’s only “status” is that she is engaged to a descendant of King David. She lives in a no-account city of Nazareth. No one would suspect that someone like Mary would be chosen as an agent of salvation, but this is what God does. What “credentials” does a person need in order to serve God? Is it humble faithfulness, a willing heart?

This is not the last surprise that story will provide. For this king will not be born to royalty in a palace, but to common folk in a stall. Yet Mary’s son will sit on the “throne of his ancestor David”… he will, “reign over the house of Jacob forever”“of his kingdom there will be no end.”

Have you ever felt called to serve God? Describe the situation(s). Was your response similar to Mary’s or not? In what ways is something new being born in you and around you?

Luke’s Gospel highlights the role of the Holy Spirit both here and throughout the gospel. How is the Holy Spirit coming upon you and overshadowing you?

You can read Mary’s song in response to receiving “proof” of her participation in bearing and giving birth to God’s Son, the Savior of the world. The themes of Mary’s revolutionary song of praise and hope, Luke 1:46-55 (often called the Magnificat), still resonate all around the world. Mary praises God for bringing down the powerful, lifting up the lowly, filling the hungry, sending away the rich. And she’s humbled to be part of that plan! LET’S CONTINUE TO PRAY THAT THE CYCLE OF VIOLENCE AND OPPRESSION IN OUR WORLD WILL BE BROKEN THROUGH THE PEACE, POWER, AND PROMISES OF JESUS CHRIST! Let it be, Lord! Come, Lord Jesus, through me.

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