By Rev. Britt Leslie
2 Samuel 7:1-11, 16; Luke 1:47-55; Rom 16:25-27; Luke 1:26-38
The scripture passages (2 Samuel 7:1-11, 16; Luke 1:47-55; Rom 16:25-27; Luke 1:26-38) for this final week in Advent are interesting in that they reveal God’s plan for the coming of Christ to the world. This is a plan which in the long view spans 1000 years! This is from the time of King David, approximately 1000 B.C.E., to the time of Christ, approximately 4 C.E. That is quite impressive to me. I can barely plan what to do for lunch tomorrow! (Hint: leftovers.)
If you read the passage from 2 Samuel 7:1-11 it ends strangely with the words of God through the prophet Nathan, “… I will build you a house” (italics mine). This is because David wanted to build a temple (house) for God so the presence of God could “live” there, so to speak. God says that there is no need of a house, but that God will build David a “house.” Now there is a play on the word “house” here. David is using the word as a dwelling place. However, God changes it up and uses the other meaning of the word, a family unit or lineage. God does not need a house but God does want to establish David’s line and David’s people, the Kingdom of Israel, forever.
Well soon after in Israel’s history, things go awry and the kingdom of Israel is all but destroyed! Think of it, a whole nation devastated! I don’t suppose we need to use a lot of imagination for that right now. One generation after David, the Kingdom split into North and South. The North was completely destroyed by Assyria. The South was later held captive by Babylon, only to rebuild and then be annexed by the Greeks, then fight off the Greeks only to dissolve into civil war again! (Hmm, think of it. A nation divided.) Finally, they are annexed by the Romans. Whew! That is a lot for a people to go through! Needless to say, the Jewish people are desperately waiting for the promise to David to be fulfilled. The promise of a lineage and nation that will never be destroyed.
Between David and when they fell under the power of Rome, the Jewish people began to expect a Messiah (it means King) who would deliver them, by military might, from the power of the Romans and establish a Jewish nation that would last forever. Sort of like the promise to David.
Now, we are all caught up. That leads us right up to the time Jesus arrives on the scene. Well almost. We need to talk about Mary first. There are two Advent passages this week from Luke that talk about Mary. The first is when the angel Gabriel announces Jesus’ birth to her (Luke 1:26-38) and the second is a song she sings in response to this blessed event (Luke 1:47-55).
When we look at the first one (Luke 1:26-38) we learn a few important things. First, Mary was perfectly submissive to God’s will. This was not a submission born of weakness but of strength. She had the courage to say “yes” to God. She says, “Here I am, the servant of the Lord; let it be with me according to your word” (v. 38). Paul talks about “the obedience of faith” (Rom 16:26) and Mary exemplifies it!
The next is that Mary will give birth to Jesus and he will have quite the résumé. It will include words like “great,” “son of the Most High,” and last but not least, “throne of his father (ancestor) David” (v. 32). Yes, the very David to whom God promised a house (household), a Kingdom that will last forever. The next verse goes on to say that Jesus will “rule over the house of Jacob” (a different name for Israel) forever! Just in case you didn’t catch it the first time, it says it again: “of his kingdom there shall be no end!” (The punctuation and italics I added.) Look! There is that word “house” again. It goes right along with the word “kingdom.” “Forever” and “no end” also pair with one another quite nicely. Jesus fulfills the promise that goes all the way back to the time of David! Wow! The long wait finally comes to an end.
This is so exciting that Mary sings a song. It is a great read, so I encourage you to read it in Luke 1:47-55. I will hit the highlights here: God is a God who shows mercy; God is a God who shows strength but not for strength’s sake, but to protect the ones who can’t protect themselves; and finally, God is a God who gives those who are in need what they need. Oh, also, God is a God who does not fear, cater, or give in to the “proud,” the “mighty,” or the “rich.” At the end of the song, Mary connects all that God is doing through Jesus with a history much earlier than David. She connects it all the way back to Abraham, the grandfather of Jacob (Israel). What God is doing through Jesus goes all the way back to God’s cosmic purpose starting with Abraham! Perhaps one could argue that Mary was the first tiger mommy (but I don’t think she put all that much pressure on the boy Jesus, even though he ran off that one time to work at the temple, see Luke 2:41-52).
So, there we have it. Jesus has arrived on the scene, finally! The wait is over and he proceeds promptly to fix everything in short order. Right!? … uhh right? What do you mean, no!?
Jesus doesn’t become a King at all. He hangs out with peasants, he becomes a teacher and gets paid peanuts. (There is scholarly debate about whether peanuts are kosher by the way, true story.) I personally believe that teachers can make a bigger difference in the world than kings or politicians. However, this is not what the Jewish people were waiting for. No, they wanted a warrior king. What a disappointment.
This long awaited king, solution to all the world’s problems, one to usher in a new age, is crucified like a common criminal. This would be a very depressing advent meditation if that were the end of the story. But, we know the end of the story! We say it every communion: “Christ has died, Christ has risen, Christ will come again!”
So let’s recap: God promises David a kingdom that will never end. Israel has its ups and downs (mostly downs) all through that first millennium B.C.E. and finally a promised Savior, a King in the line of David is born to a lowly peasant girl. That Savior/King lives a life of humility, is killed for his radical ideas about peace and love and not grasping for power (people in power never like to hear that last one), and is finally crucified. But remember:
Easter, the resurrection will come. We could not have Easter without the crucifixion; we could not have the crucifixion without our Savior coming in the first place. That is what Advent is about.
Just like Mary, God has brought us who trust in Jesus into the long cosmic plan of redemption! It is so hard to look around and see the world as it is. We might sympathize with the Israelites and their plights. Two civil wars; stark disparity between the haves and have not’s; and yes even plagues. Some of us may look around and see our polarized nation in a metaphorical civil war, while some are still feeling the effects of the first. Our pandemic has separated us from loved ones around the table this thanksgiving and has left empty seats never to be filled again. We, like the Israelites, wonder, what can be done? Where is our Savior? How long must we wait.
Our Savior comes. Our Savior comes through the life of a young virgin who utters in perfect submission, “let it be with me according to your word.” Can we say the same? Dare we pray Mary’s prayer? Even now, can we trust our God in perfect submission like Mary? Can we rejoice, like Mary, that God has brought us to this place and connected us to that great cosmic mystery of faith? Dare we believe it?
In Advent Jesus comes. The cosmic drama begins. Let us, like Mary, resolve to receive God’s difficult call with the words “let it be with me according to your word.”
Trinity Advent Devotional
Welcome to Advent, 2020, a season like no other. These readings, throughout the Advent season, have all been written by staff and members of Trinity. We hope you’ll enjoy the opportunity to get to know one another better through these prayers, devotions and stories. Even in this challenging time, we celebrate this opportunity to grow in love and service through our relationships with God and with one another.