Advent 4 – December 20, 2020
Faith Lutheran Church
Grace to you all and peace From God the creator and our Lord and Savior Jesus. Amen.
As we approach Christmas, and our traditions change in one way or another, one aspect of the holiday that for many still can remain is the giving and receiving of gifts. Sure, we may be shopping online more than we used to, and many of the gifts will be shipped rather than being given in person, but giving and receiving gifts is something that many people will still try to continue this Christmas.
As we witnessed last week during the Christmas program, the wise men brought gifts that very first Christmas. And in our first reading for today, written centuries before Jesus’ birth, David was also moved to give a gift to God. And that gift, was a new home for the Ark of the Covenant.
Now, the ark is not the same as Noah’s Ark, it wasn’t a boat. Rather, it was a container that held the tablets on which the ten commandments were written. If you have ever seen the Indiana Jones movie Raiders of the Lost Ark, you have a Hollywood idea of what it may have looked like.
The ark was a sacred object that represented the presence of God on earth for the Ancient Israelites.
At this time when we encounter King David in our first reading, it was a time when he was really coming into his own as King. Saul, who had been the king before him had recently died, and David’s rule was just beginning. And he already had begun his rule on a high note by returning the ark back to Jerusalem, the religious and political center for the Israelite people.
But having returned the ark back to Jerusalem, settling back in to his palace, David wondered aloud whether the tent they were keeping the ark in was “good enough.” By this time, God had delivered the people through many trials and tribulations, and as a gift of thanksgiving, David thought that the Ark–and god by extension–deserved a better home. That he ark deserved a palace made of the finest materials.
So David shared this plan with his trusted advisor, Nathan. And initially, Nathan said “Go ahead, build a beautiful home for the Ark.” But Nathan was a prophet, and that evening God spoke to Nathan a word that he was to share with David.
You see, by this time, David had been pretty successful. And as King, he recognized that he desired a beautiful home. And if he desired a beautiful home, if King David desired a beautiful home, wouldn’t it make sense that the Ark–the symbol of God’s presence among the poepl–deserved an even more beautiful home? But David, in his desire to give to God fell into the mistake that some of us might during the holidays–giving other people the gifts that we really want for ourselves. David didn’t discern God’s will, but only perceived things from his human point of view.
So through the prophet Nathan, God reminded David of who God is. Yes, God is a king, but unlike the kings of the world, God is not tied down to a particular location, but is and always has been responsive to the needs of the Israelite people wherever they might be. The God of Abraham wasn’t so high and mighty to refuse the tent that wasn’t as fancy as a permanent home that David wanted to build.
And through Nathan, I would even say that God got a little sassy with David. God says in similar words “In all the time we traveled around together, have I ever even said to build me a house of cedar? Where did you get that idea from, because it certainly wasn’t from me!”
And yet, God continues to say “This house idea…let’s work with that…”
Rather than building a house for God and the Ark, God desired to build a house for David and the people of Israel. But this would be no ordinary house. It wasn’t going to be constructed of four walls and a roof. The word translated as house can also mean lineage, and so this house would be the family and descendants of David.
And on this fourth week of Advent, this is a family and lineage that we have been eagerly waiting for these last few weeks. It is Jesus’ family, a family of the house of David. A house built by the grace of God.
And this house, this is a house that we have been adopted into. Through our baptism, we have each been welcomed into this family and house in which God dwells.
In the Magnificat, Mary’s song that we said together as our Psalm today, Mary boldly sang that God lifts up the lowly and come to the aid of God’s servant. Even as we change our plans and still try to maintain our traditions, the feeling of exhaustion is real. The feeling of being lowly and tired.
- For healthcare workers who day in and day out witness firsthand the impact of the pandemic on people and their families.
- For teachers and parents of students who are all doing the best you can to care for the children and youth in this overwhelming time.
- For the homebound and isolated, who feel trapped by an invisible disease that has killed over 300 thousand, and yet still feels far off.
In this season of Advent and Christmas when we can feel pressure to give our very best to god, these words to David in our first reading and from Mary in our Psalm is a necessary reminder that in this time, when we are exhausted, God does not need anything more from us.
Rather, in this season, we can slow down and allow God to build within us. Dear people, this is the good news. This is the gospel. That it is God who in both seasons of energy and exhaustion continues to come to us. God who made godself present with David in establishing a his lineage that led to Christ. God, who was present with Mary as she sang her song of praise. God who is present with us today-healthcare workers, teachers, parents, those isolated at home apart from family and friends. Just as God spoke to David, God continues to speak to us, saying:
“When did I ever demand a temple from you? I go where you go. I am with you.”
Siblings in Christ, as we each prepare for Christmas recognizing that the gifts and traditions may be different this year, may we continue hoping forward to the gift of Christ’s arrival in the form of a baby wrapped in swaddling clothes. For in Christ, we are all witness to God with us, Immanuel. And in this strange and difficult season, what a beautiful and necessary reminder that is. Amen.