At this juncture, David is a big winner: king of Israel and Judah, conqueror of the mighty Philistines, with the captured city of Jerusalem his capital. Living in “a house of cedar”—not local stone, but expensive wood, a tribute gift from King Hiram of Tyre (see 2 Samuel 5:11)—David, perhaps out of guilt, has a great idea: I’ll build God, who resides in the ark in a tent, a house to live in. He checks this out with Nathan, who thinks it’s a splendid plan. But God doesn’t. God comes to Nathan that night with a message reminding David of all God has done for him in the past and previewing what God will do for him in the future. God’s got other building plans in mind.
Especially from a place of strength, it’s easy to get inspired about what to do for God before consulting God. Unfortunately, good intentions sometimes get ahead of God’s plans, which can seem slow to become evident. But as the hymn says, “God is working his purpose out as year succeeds to year.”* God has eternity to accomplish God’s plans. Getting results (like building houses) may not be the point.
As Advent draws to a close, what does God want you to do before God comes, not in mighty Jerusalem but down the road in sleepy little Bethlehem? Sometimes adults must do what we admonish children to do: Stop. Look. Listen. We should be cautious about our Nathan-like haste to jump on our latest project’s bandwagon. Before we order lumber and get out the tools (or the shopping list, baking pans, or wrapping paper), we should listen in the night for God’s desire and directives.
*“God Is Working His Purpose Out,” Arthur Campbell Ainger (1894).
God, help me put aside my good ideas for your gracious plans. Amen.
In the fourth week of Advent, we focus on prophecies of the arrival of the Messiah. When David commits to build a temple for God, God promises to build a house for David as well. This is the line of David that will rule forever, and Jesus comes from this line. In the first reading from Luke, Mary rejoices after her visit to Elizabeth, for she understands that her child will play a key role in God’s redemption. Paul reminds the Romans that his message about Christ did not begin with him. Instead, it is the fulfillment of promises made through the prophets. The second reading from Luke might more logically have come first this week, for it describes how Mary reveals the importance of this child in her song of rejoicing.
Read 2 Samuel 7:1-11, 16. When have you thought you were participating in God’s plans and later realized you had misunderstood God’s desire or instruction?
Read Luke 1:47-55. Consider how you magnify the Lord. How do you pass on your faith to future generations?
Read Romans 16:25-27. Remember the carols you have been singing this Advent and have sung throughout your life. How do they help you proclaim the mystery of the Incarnation?
Read Luke 1:26-38. In this season of giving and receiving, how do you remember that God is the giver of all good gifts? How do you return your God-given gifts to God?
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