2Sam 7:1-5,8-12,14,16; Psalm 88, Rom 16:25-27; Lk 1:26-38
On this last Sunday of Advent, the liturgy presents us with to important characters in the history of Salvation: King David and Mary. David wants to do something great for God – he wants to build a magnificent temple, and Mary expresses her willingness to receive someone great from God, his very own son.
That David wanted to build a house for the Lord is not a surprise because David was a man after God’s own heart and longed to honour the Lord in every possible way. During his years of exile, David had vowed to the Lord that he would build Him a temple (Ps 132:1-5), and his bringing the Ark to Jerusalem was surely the first step toward fulfilling that vow. Now David was troubled that he was living in a comfortable stone house with cedar panelling while God’s throne was in a tent, and he shared his burden with Nathan.
In the first part of the message, God reminded David that at no time had He ever asked any tribe or tribal leader to build Him a house. God had commanded Moses to make a tabernacle for His dwelling, and He had been satisfied to travel with His pilgrim people and dwell with them wherever they camped. Now that Israel was in the land and had peace, they needed a caring leader, not a temple, and that’s why God called David to shepherd the people of Israel. Despite his desires and his oath, David would not build the temple. The best thing he could do for the Lord was to continue shepherding the people and setting a godly example.
Then the Lord turned from promises concerning the land and the nation to promises concerning David’s throne and family (vv. 11-16). Every king is concerned about the future of his kingdom, and the Lord promised David something above and beyond anything he could have imagined. David wanted to build God a house (the temple), but God promised to build David a house – a dynasty forever! The word “house” is used fifteen times in this chapter and refers to David’s palace (vv. 1-2), the temple (vv. 5-7, 13), and David’s dynasty, culminating in Messiah, Jesus Christ (vv. 11, 13, 16, 18-29).
Appropriately, the first reading today sets the birth of Jesus within a wider arc of expectation by describing the promise to David alluded to in the Gospel. As we arrive at the Christian perspective with the Gospel of today, we discover that the Lord’s promise to build David an everlasting “house” is to be realized in a way that will surpass all previous expectation.
Gabriel’s announcement to Mary comes in two distinct stages, separated by a query on her part. After the opening greeting and assurance, Mary is told that she is to be the mother of a child, whose titles (“Son of the Most High”) and role indicate that he will be the long-awaited Messiah. The angel’s majestic explanation lifts everything to a new, transcendent level. The birth will not come about through Mary’s having relations with her husband but through her being “overshadowed” by the creative power of God’s Holy Spirit. Thus, the child to be born from her will be God’s Son in a unique way, vastly outstripping conventional messianic expectation. The God who did not wish to dwell in a house built by David will come to dwell among us in the person of a son of David whose reign will not end.
Central in all of this is Mary’s faith – as her cousin Elizabeth will later remark: “Blessed is she who believed that the promise made to her by the Lord would be fulfilled” (Luke 1:45). Unlike Zechariah in connection with the birth of John the Baptist (Luke 1:11-19), Mary does not simply have to believe that God will overcome barrenness and old age to bring about the promised new life; she has to believe that God’s power will take the place of the male parent in a completely unparalleled way.
It is God who builds the house! It is God who sends the Saviour! It is God who comes to Mary and through Mary gives us the Saviour. All comes from God and all returns to God, but the present is the important time because it is now that God and humans are in relationship.
Peace be with you!
Fr. Dumlesi Tor