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God's Word on Sunday: In God’s house, loyalty is unwavering

  • December 21, 2023

Fourth Sunday of Advent (Year B) Dec. 24 (2 Samuel 7:1-5, 8b-2, 14a, 16; Psalm 69; Romans 16:25-27; Luke 1:26-38)

Does God need a house? Apparently not, for David’s plan to build one for God was emphatically rejected by God. It was something God neither expected nor requested. Instead, God called to mind the many blessings that had already been given to David — security, defeat of enemies, the throne of Israel, as well as peace and prosperity. God then turned the tables on David, vowing to make him a house in a much broader and deeper sense — an enduring relationship with all of David’s descendants.

In a similar way, people often try to please God by bestowing things that would please humans — wealth, monuments, works of art, and on a darker note, crusades against unbelievers and dissidents. Throughout the Old Testament, the prophets repeatedly chastised Israel for focusing on activities designed to please God — liturgies, sacrifices, various pious practices — while ignoring what God had explicitly demanded. This was, of course, justice and mercy. Corruption in the courts and the marketplace, along with oppression of the poor and vulnerable, do not please God. Neither does callous indifference to the common good. All of the sacrifices or religious practices in the world will not cover them up. The house that God wants to establish with us consists of a personal relationship. We make a house for God consisting of compassionate and loving hearts, devoid of egotism, negativity and selfishness.

The descendants of David, and to some extent David himself, succumbed to corruption, idolatry and pride. This was their downfall, and over the centuries people longed for the perfect ruler from the house of David. God promised David His perpetual and unwavering loyalty and blessings. God is faithful even when we are not; God is loving and merciful, even when we are not. But we rob ourselves of a rich and consoling relationship when we shut God out and wander off on our own wayward path.

Paul summed up his long theological treatise in the Letter to the Romans with a paean of praise to the Lord Jesus. Jesus is the sole source of our strength and the summation and goal of all human history. He has come to reconcile the entire world to God and to throw open the gates of salvation to all. There have been many attempts to reduce Jesus to a mere wise teacher, holy man or mythological figure. But these will all have to contend with and explain this ringing and exultant proclamation by the apostle Paul.

The heart and soul of Mary were a fitting home and dwelling place for God. We might wonder why Mary was chosen to be the mother of Jesus. There were many virtuous and holy women in Judea of the first century. But Mary had been prepared from all eternity — she was free from the collective sin that has aways clung to humanity with such tenacity. The angel’s greeting called Mary the highly favoured one, and she was right to be perplexed. It isn’t every day that one is greeted by an angel and especially with such a title. She was given the news that she was to be a vessel of the divine and a channel of grace.

Mary’s perplexed question echoes the problem with most humans. How can something thought to be impossible become reality? Mary was trying to reconcile the fact that she was a virgin with the angel’s insistence that she would be the mother of the Saviour. The angel raised the bar by informing her that her kinswoman — barren and well-past childbearing age — was pregnant and in her sixth month. He finished off with the guiding principle for all those who consider themselves people of faith: nothing will be impossible with God.

Faith is not assenting to dogmas and creeds, but of being absolutely sure that God can and will accomplish what God has promised. As soon as doubts and equivocations begin to creep in, the force of God’s power is blunted and the miracles begin to fade away. When we walk closely with God miracles cease to be extraordinary events.

Mary’s response to the angel is what the response of all believers should be — “let it be done to me according to your word.”