December 20, 2020
We are nearing the end of the Advent season, and our readings for this Fourth Sunday of Advent turn our attention toward the great feast of the Nativity. The first reading from the Second Book of Samuel features David the King, at home in his palace, with a strong desire to honor God and show gratitude for God by building a great “house” for God as well. This good intention of David is an opening.
God’s message through Nathan is that God not only doesn’t need David to build him a house, but that God will build a “house” for David. We might also understand house as a dynasty here; the reference is to Jesus, who will be born of the house of David, an heir to the Davidic kingdom. And the gospel reading reinforces this with the story of the Annunciation, when Gabriel appears to Mary. In the Incarnation, God made flesh, God has made his dwelling with us.
David wants to build a house for God, but God wants to build a house for David. God, who cannot be contained in a house, nonetheless makes his house among us. The awesomeness of the Incarnation cannot be exaggerated!
At our best moments, we know that we – like David – recognize our blessings and the way God has worked within our lives. We also want to honor God, to shout his praises, and to find some way to pay God back, give God his due for all God has done for us. This inclination toward gratitude, and our desire to praise him is a gift. And if David had such a response, how much more should we also desire to show our gratitude for the Incarnation.
Perhaps this is why there has been a longstanding tradition of giving gifts to the baby Jesus. Some cultures will bring physical gifts to the church on the night of Christmas Eve. Others encourage extra prayers or acts of charity as gifts to Jesus, who is honored when we help others.
During this unusual season of Advent during a pandemic, such gifts to Jesus should not be put aside. Perhaps we have been too busy or overwhelmed to prioritize acts of charity; if so, we can offer those feelings and our suffering as gifts to Jesus that we have embraced. If we find ourselves able, however, we should recognize how many needy people surround us this year. There are the lonely and isolated who would appreciate a phone call or a card. There are many suffering hunger as a result of the pandemic; food pantries need our donations more than ever.
Advent is nearing an end, but we still have the Christmas season… and the rest of the year… to thank God and to praise God and to honor by serving and caring for each other.