2 Samuel 7; 1 – 5, 8B – 12, 14A, 16
Gospel Luke 1; 26 – 38
On the Fourth and last Sunday of Advent the Gospel takes us back nine months to the Annunciation. It reminds us that the birth of Jesus was not a random decision by God, but was part of God’s plan of salvation for us. The Messiah was to be born at a particular time, in a particular place, to a particular woman. The announcement by the Archangel Gabriel to Mary that she would conceive by the Holy Spirit, bear a son, and name him Jesus is the beginning of the fulfillment of God’s plan of redemption for us.
We can wonder and even be surprised at how God’s plan seems to go against what our human expectations of how the incarnation should play out. Should not the Messiah be born of royal lineage in a palace? That was not God’s plan. The Messiah was not born of a high born woman, but rather of a woman who found favor with God, and who had been prepared for this from the time of her Immaculate Conception. The Messiah was not born in the palace of a major city, but in a stable in a lowly town. The child was not fathered by earthly royalty, but by the Godliness of the Holy Spirit.
Although the people of Jesus’ time had their expectations for an earthly, majestic and mighty Messiah, God did indeed try to prepare them for his plan. The Reading from Second Samuel describes how David’s plan to honor God was not God’s desire or plan. David revealed his plan to the prophet Nathan to build a great temple for the ark of God. Even Nathan’s initial response reflects his worldly view when he tells David to go ahead and build. It was only later when the Lord spoke to Nathan that he returns and says it is not God plan for David to build a temple. Instead, God reveals to David that he will build a house form him that will last forever. This “house” is not a building but the line of David from which Jesus is born. God’s plan is so much different than how we might picture things coming about.
In addition to the passage about David the Old Testament is full of prophecies referring to the Messiah and his lowly birth. The expectation of the people of Israel seems to have blurred their understanding and their expectations. When Jesus is born in a manger in Bethlehem many could not see that as God’s plan for the Messiah.
This Fourth Sunday of Advent is the beginning of our final four days of preparation for the celebration of the birth of Jesus. It is a good time to look at the expectations that we have placed on God and ask if our expectations are open to God’s plan for us. The way in which Jesus was born into the world wasn’t at all what people expected. Some had an openness that allowed them to adjust their expectations so as to welcome the Lord, others were obstinate in their refusal to recognize Jesus as Lord. The ultimate act of faith in God and openness to His will is seen in Mary’s final words to the Archangel Gabriel; “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord. May it be done to me according to your word.” As we prepare to celebrate Christmas it would do us well to reflect on these words of Mary, and to make them our own. May we journey through this final portion of Advent with an increased anticipation for God to act in our lives, and an openness to His plan.
Father Killian Loch, O.S.B.