Reading Ramblings – December 24, 2017

Reading Ramblings

Date: Fourth Sunday in Advent, December 24, 2017

Texts: 2 Samuel 7:1-11, 16; Psalm 89:1-5, 19-29; Romans 16:25-27; Luke 1:26-38

Context: The last Sunday of Advent is also Christmas Eve this year. This allows for a nice progression from the texts this morning to Christmas Eve and Christmas morning in quick succession. Having gradually shifted our focus to the baby in the manger via John the Baptist, this week’s readings emphasize his prophetic backstory as a descendant of King David, a fitting fulfillment of God’s promise to establish David’s family and throne forever. First we hear God’s promise to David, then have it reinforced in the psalm, and finally Luke reminds his readers that Jesus is properly a descendant of David, something which prompts his parents to make an undoubtedly uncomfortable road trip just as Mary is due to give birth. The baby in the manger is truly and fully a king, both in human as well as divine terms.

2 Samuel 7:1-11 – David aspires to give something to God, but God intends to give something to and through David. David thinks in strictly physical terms, but God speaks in both spiritual and physical terms, playing with the language of house. David’s dynasty will be established. God’s plan will be fulfilled, regardless of David’s upcoming sinful behavior. God is not simply coming down from nowhere to accomplish his plan of reconciling creation to himself, He will continue to work through a particular people, fulfilling his earlier promises to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob that they would be the fathers of kings. The Messiah will be thoroughly grounded and rooted in human history and geography, not a once-upon-a-time sort of savior, but real flesh and blood with a lineage and a future.

Psalm 89:1-4, 19-29 – The promises of God are a source reason for giving him praise and thanks. This psalm retells God’s promises to David (one who is mighty, v.19), tracing the Lord’s faithfulness from his initial anointing of David (1 Samuel 16) through his faithful protection of and prospering of David despite fierce opposition (vs. 21-24). The Lord’s faithfulness (despite Davids unfaithfulness) is strongly pronounced in vs. 27-29. Fortunately, God’s promises are not dependent on our worthiness, but rather are rooted in his holiness and righteousness and mercy. We never have reason to boast of our relationship to God, as it is fully initiated, established, sustained and fulfilled by him. We can only give him thanks and praise for his goodness to us.

Romans 16:25-27 – The closing of Paul’s letter to the Romans is a beautiful blessing, an assurance of and praising of God’s faithfulness to his people. Paul’s hearers are to trust that God will strengthen their faith as Paul has preached the Gospel of Jesus Christ to them in his letter. His letter is not an inanimate thing but a means by which God will strengthen the hearers faith, then as now. Our faith is rooted in a mystery, but a mystery that has been told about for millenia. The salvation of the world through Jesus Christ is a mystery but not an unanticipated one. It isn’t as though God sprung something new on the world. Instead, God fulfilled his longstanding promises, which should be clear to those who study his Word. The mystery was not understood for much of that time, but such misunderstanding does not prevent God from bringing prophesy to fruition at a particular place and time. That this has happened is made clear from the prophetic writings of the Old Testament, something that can be proclaimed to all the world for their own evaluation. This is what God has commanded, and this is what has happened, so that countless people have come to faith in Jesus Christ through the study of God’s Word, resulting in obedient faith lived out day after day. All of this is to God’s glory, as it is God’s plan from start to finish. And as God’s salvation and plan are worked out through Jesus Christ, it is only appropriate and fitting that our praise to God the Father is through Jesus Christ as well.

Luke 1:26-38 – We hear of the Anunciation – the angel Gabriel’s amazing message that Mary of Nazareth would bear the Son of God. Luke’s account is full of details. The sixth month of the year. Nazareth in Galilee. Mary, a virgin. Betrothed to a man of the line of David. Specifics and details to be investigated and vetted by the hearers of Luke’s Gospel. Mary is understandably confused, but Gabriel is gentle to her, patiently explaining what will take place so that she will give birth to a son without the involvement of a human father. It must have seemed incomprehensible to her. How could she possibly be prepared to receive such news? But Mary was prepared to agree that if the Lord wanted to utilize her, it was both fitting and proper that He should. Mary did not let her doubt or uncertainty or fear stand in the way of her giving herself to God’s plan.

This is an essential quality of faith, that receives what the Lord directs even when we don’t understand it or necessarily want it. An acknowledgment that God is in control and we are necessarily his obedient servants. In this regard Mary’s faith is no different than ours. What God does in and with and through her faith is unique to her, but that is God’s power, not hers. The Son of God, the Messiah, the descendant of David who will establish the Davidic dynasty for all eternity comes into the world through a simple man and woman who are proper descendants of King David. God fulfills his prophesy perfectly and completely even if somewhat unexpectedly. As the Holy Spirit leads and guides us, may we, with God’s Word as our guide, respond with the simple trust and faith of Mary, to the glory of God.

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