2Sam 7: 1-5, 8-12, 14, 16; Luke 1: 26-38
The obvious connection with the first reading and Gospel today on this Fourth Sunday of Advent is the lineage of Jesus with David and the fulfillment of that line in Jesus through Mary. However, like most of Scripture there is often a deeper meaning and connection with them. You see, there’s something happening in both the life of David and Mary at this very moment. There’s a stirring deep within their hearts and souls of a God leading them to greater fulfillment in their lives and ultimately in the world. A God who can accomplish the impossible is hard at work and on the scene in both of their lives, both in very different places and circumstances of life, but both being stirred by this God who brings life.
For David, it’s probably similar to many of us, albeit it to the extreme. The reading even begins by mentioning that David had just gotten settled. It’s in that moment when he’s getting used to his role as King and the great palace that he now lives and the many walls and such that protect him, and yet, none of it is offering fulfillment in his life. He knows in his head that God is always with him; Nathan makes that point to him in the reading today in the reading today. Yet, as a visual, he then sees how the Ark of God dwells in comparison to himself, an earthly king. Here’s the ark in a tent, exposed to the elements, vulnerable, out there, in the line of fire, per say, and then here’s David in his protected walls and palace with everything at his fingertips. He can do anything he wants or desires and then there’s the Ark of God. In that very moment, things begin to stir within his heart and soul. It’s almost as if you were to hold up a mirror to David’s heart and soul, looking back would be what we hear in the gospel today, the unfolding of the annunciation and the beginnings of the incarnation of our God. Here’s David, long before Jesus ever enters the scene or is dreamed of, being moved in a way, deep within his own vulnerability and emptiness, his own empty crib as we see before us, a God who begins to stir within David to bring about the God in the flesh into the world and do great things, pondering all these things in his heart. Of course, he doesn’t always do it right. He abuses his power, takes advantage of the role he has has king, and yet, in a moment of vulnerability and emptiness, despite have everything he could possibly want or imagine, God begins to stir.
Mary experiences that same stirring and vulnerability within herself as she enters the scene. If you were here on the Immaculate Conception I had said Mary, of all the characters we encounter in Scripture, is probably one of the most misunderstood. We have done a greater job at creating her into who we want her to be or think we need her to be than to encounter her for who she is in this passage. Mary enters in poverty. Mary enters as peasant. Mary enters in a male-dominated world. Mary enters with absolutely no clout, like David, and is totally exposed and vulnerable as a young teenager. If there’s anything against anyone, it’s Mary, yet, she can’t ignore the stirring within her. She could try to ignore and pay no attention to it, but God has other plans and in the deepest part of Mary, pondering all these things in her heart and her empty crib, Mary responds with a yes despite the expectations of a world in which she grows up and lives. Mary goes against the tide and says yes to the incarnate, despite knowing the implications on her life, Joseph’s life, and the life of Jesus. When God stirs in our own vulnerability and empty crib, we come with great humility as Mary does knowing it was designed and built for one, our Lord.
There will be great demands brought upon all of us this week. We will do everything we can to fulfill expectations of others or even of ourselves. We will spend time with loved ones and even some we may not be fond of, but all along, God knows we’ve spent a great deal of this time trying to fill that longing and empty crib with many other things and so I go back to what I said on the First Sunday of Advent, how important it is to find silence in this time. We may not experience the empty crib right now. Some may experience it on Christmas but for many of us, we begin to experience it following Christmas when we begin to realize that so much of it hasn’t brought fulfillment. We didn’t get the right gift. They didn’t like what we had gotten them despite the hours walking in the mall. All of these things begin to grow within and like David and Mary and Elizabeth, that’s when God steps in and begins to stir us. If God were to place that mirror up to your heart and soul, what does God see? What have we tried to fill that crib with other than God? God invites us to sit with it long enough to allow the stirring to bring life and healing, for when we do, the impossible becomes the reality in our lives and world.