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4th Sunday of Advent, 2014

This 4th Sunday of Advent we focus on the Incarnation… God made manifest through the birth of Jesus.  Nothing captures this moment better than our Gospel, but as we will see, our other readings would suggest that this meeting between God and his people has been coming for some time…

2 Samuel 7:1-5, 8b-12, 14a, 16
Psalm 89:2-3, 4-5, 27-29
Romans 16:25-27
Luke 1:26-38

To better understand our readings for this week, I think we should first look at our Gospel.  In a story that is unique to Luke’s Gospel, we here the of the angel Gabriel coming to Mary to announce God’s plan for the birth of his Son.  It’s not hard for us to imagine Mary’s amazement in this moment.  Not only is this humble girl from Nazareth (already likely anxious over her betrothal to Joseph) being approached by an angel, a messenger for the Lord, but the angel’s message is almost unbelievable:  God has chosen her to bear his Son.  Mary isn’t naive, however, and challenges Gabriel about this plan, but after some further explanation Mary agrees and says “yes.” (“Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord.  May it be done to me according to your word.”).  Every Christian is familiar with this story, but I often wonder if our familiarity with it drowns out the shear amazement of the moment.  Not only has God concocted this incredible plan for reconciling with his creation, but the whole scheme depends on whether this young unwed peasant girl from Nazareth is willing to go along with it.  The miracle is two-fold… God’s plan, and Mary’s “yes.”

As for God’s plan, we will see that this has been in the works for some time.  This is evident in our first reading from the 2nd book of Samuel.  David, God’s chosen, is now king of Israel… settled into his new palace.  But David is troubled… he now has a palace, but what of God?  Should the arc still be in a tent?  God wants David to dismiss this idea, however, and instead has Nathan remind David about the greater mission… where they’ve been, and where they are going, to establish a house, a son and a kingdom dedicated to the Lord.  This was the promise God made, and though it took some time, it’s the promise he fulfilled in our Gospel.  Our Psalm echoes that covenant… we praise the Lord, and he protects us.

Our second reading comes from the conclusion of Paul’s letter to the Romans.  In this passage from Paul we hear echoes of our Psalm… that it is through Christ we find strength, and from that grace we continue to bring the nations to give praise to God.

These readings from Samuel and Paul lead us to think of kings and thrones and majesty, with are all valid images for Christ.  But let us not forget that like David himself, Jesus was born of humble, ordinary means… just like Jesus… just like us.  This is the miracle of Christmas.  If a shepherd like David, or a carpenter’s son like Jesus can bring entire nations to the Lord, so can we.  Not through battles or revolutions, but by loving God and sharing that love with our neighbors.  Merry Christmas.

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