4th Sunday of Advent, Dec. 24, 2017

(II Samuel 7:1-5, 8b-12,14a,16; Romans 16:25-27; Luke 1:26-38)

        The Fourth Sunday of Advent passes quickly. With Christmas following so closely, the reading from II Samuel will go unnoticed. David has finally settled in his palace after the Lord “had given him rest from his enemies on every side.” That stresses that David did not win his battles; the Lord had done it, after picking David to be king. Then David regrets living in “a house of cedar, while the ark of God dwells in a tent.”

        At first, Nathan the prophet agrees with David’s building a Temple for the Lord. Later, the Lord speaks to Nathan, who reminds David of all that had been done for David by the Lord: “I took you from the care of the flock to be commander of my people Israel…I destroyed all your enemies before you…” The Lord also promised to establish “my people” in the land. In this vein, the Lord reminds David of all that has been done for him already. And finally, “Your house, and your kingdom shall endure forever before me; your throne shall stand firm forever.”

        This is key in evolving hope for a Messiah in later centuries when David’s successors have lost the kingship and Israel’s king was nothing more than a stoolie appointed by Rome. As followers of Jesus began to identify him as Messiah (or Christ), it became important to establish him as “Son of David” in order to claim Israel’s kingship.

        Paul formulates the ending of the letter to the Romans, although many scholars think these verses were not part of Paul’s letter, nor that they were written by Paul. The verses reflect the New Testament attitude about Jesus as Christ, in the line of David. It was “according to the revelation of the mystery kept secret for long ages but now manifested through the prophetic writings, and according to the command of the eternal God made known to all nations to bring about the obedience of faith.”

        That brings us to the Gospel of Luke and the Annunciation narrative. Luke’s skill as a writer is evident throughout his work. The Annunciation scene is no exception. Patterned after the announcement to Zechariah about the birth of John, Luke assigns Mary to receive the announcement about the birth of Jesus. After the announcement Zechariah was confused; so too Mary here. Zechariah objected that he was an old man; Mary objected that she did not “know” (as in, have relations with) a man. Zechariah is given a sign by being not able to speak. Mary’s sign is that her kinswoman Elizabeth is with child, a son, “For nothing is impossible for God.”

Joseph is clearly identified as the descendant of David, whereas in Matthew, it is Mary. After greeting her, the angel calls her “highly favored,” (by God), commonly translated “full of grace.” It is a play on words in Greek. He announces to her that “the Lord is with you,” which is really the meaning of that greeting at Mass. It’s a fact not a prayer. Mary was greatly disturbed by this and debated within herself what this might mean. Striking is Luke’s insistence that she was perplexed and wondering about this, rather than eager to accept the news.

The angel convinces her: “Do not be afraid, Mary. You have found favor with God.” Gabriel presents it all in the future tense, not necessarily awaiting her acceptance, so much as telling her what was coming. Mary accepts and says “let it be done to me according to your word.” Now the scene is set for us to celebrate the joyful news that a “child has been born for us who is Christ and Lord.” A blessed and peace-filled Christmas to you all!

         

Fr. Lawrence L. Hummer     hummerl@stmarychillicothe.com