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Fourth Sunday of Advent

December 18, 2005

Blessed Sunday!

O Lord of Lords
And Leader of the house of Israel
Who appeared to Moses in the bush’s flaming fire,
And gave to him the Law of Sinai
Come stretch out Your mighty hand to set us free
(see Isaiah 11:4-5 & 33:22, Genesis 3, Exodus 19-20, Deuteronomy 10:17, I Timothy 6:16, Revelation 17:15, Psalm 136:3)

II Samuel 7:1-5, 8-11, 16
Psalm 89 “Forever I will sing the goodness of the Lord”
Romans 16:25-27
+ Luke 1:26-38

King David has finally established his rule. God promised it to him when he was still a boy, when the prophet Samuel put an entire sacrificial banquet on hold until David could be brought in to be anointed king (I Samuel 16:1-13). A lot has happened since then. David entered the service of the reigning king, Saul, and nearly fell victim to this disturbed man’s jealousy several times. David finally fled to the wilderness, living as an outlaw until Saul died in battle. Even then, it was several years before all Israel was united under David’s rule, external enemies had been pushed back, and some measure of peace had been restored to the realm. Now David has a chance to breathe, as it were, to look around and consider something other than mere survival. Godly king that he was, his first move was to bring the Ark of the Covenant to Jerusalem, the capitol of the kingdom. However, having the Ark so close highlighted a glaring discrepancy. David, a mere man, lived in a splendid palace, while the Ark of God, the dwelling of the Most High, was still housed in a tent. Surely this was backward! So David consulted the prophet, Nathan. At first the prophet gave David the go-ahead to do whatever he saw best, but then God stepped in. David wanted to build God a house. God had bigger plans. He was in the process of building David a house; not just a house of marble and gold, but an eternal dynasty that would bring peace and security.

Things didn’t look too good for this promise in the generations that followed. Sure, Solomon made quite a name for himself in the beginning, but he didn’t end well. His foreign wives turned his heart to their idols and by the time he died, his subjects were on the verge of revolt (see I Kings 12:3-4). During his son’s reign, most of them did revolt (II Kings 12:15-19), and things went downhill fast. Wicked king followed wicked king until both kingdoms collapsed under their enemies and were carried into exile. Even after the Israelites were allowed to return home, they were still under foreign domination. What happened to the promise of David’s eternal dynasty?

That’s where our Gospel picks up. The angel Gabriel comes to a virgin betrothed to one of David’s princely descendants (Mary is believed to have been a descendant of David as well) to announce to her that she will bear a Son, Son of the Most High, to Whom God will give “the throne of David, His father; and He shall rule in the house of Jacob forever. And of His Kingdom there shall be no end” (Luke 1:32-33). We know now that the house of David, which God promised would last forever, is the Kingdom of God; for the Second Person of the Holy Trinity became the Son of David. And another name for the Kingdom of God, for the House of David which is still among us, is the Church. We, through our Baptism, are part of that legacy, part of that royal House.

We are still awaiting the final fulfillment of the promise, for the rest from our enemies which we will experience when Jesus comes again to take us Home, but we can begin to experience some of that rest now. Our only real enemies are the sins, our sins, that get between us and God. Everything else is already working for our good (Romans 8:28). Even sin can be turned to good when we bring it to God in repentance and seek His help, which He’s only too eager to give, in the Sacrament of Confession (which He gave us, and through which He works). This sacrament brings us rest from our enemies. Not only does it give our conscience rest, it also strengthens us against those very enemies so they don’t have as much power over us anymore. It reveals to us our weak points, so that we can train more effectively to become more like Christ (I Corinthians 9:24-27), which becomes easier with practise. It’s part of coming under the leadership, the eternal Kingship of Christ, that will set us free.

May we who’ve had the privilege of being Baptized into the Kingdom of God gratefully receive and fulfill the commands of the King of Kings whose sacrificial leadership sets us free.

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