Fourth Sunday of Advent
The readings for the day can be found here.
Christians in this Advent season can’t help but connect the dots in today’s reading; that is, the birth of Jesus of Nazareth is obviously understood as the fulfillment of the promise in 2 Samuel that an heir of David would arrive upon the scene to “make his kingdom firm”. Yet, it is in the peculiar details at the beginning of this Old Testament passage where one can perceive a subtle hint that also pointed towards the arrival of the eternal WORD who became “flesh and made his dwelling among us.” (John 1:14)
Followers of Christ throughout the centuries couldn’t help but notice that the longing of Christ’s forefather, David, to find a habitation worthy of housing the Presence of God would find its ultimate realization in the Incarnation. While David’s immediate desire was that the Presence of God (in the form of the Ark of the Covenant at that time) should be moved from a meager tent to an ornate building (i.e., the Temple), Early Church Fathers such as Cyprian of Carthage (3rd century) contended that what King David was actually pining for was a day when the Presence of God would not merely dwell with us – but would be one of us, “Christ should be the house and temple of God, and that the old temple should cease, and the new one should begin.” (To Quirinus 1.15).
It is interesting to note that although David desired to construct the Temple, he was ultimately barred by God from doing so because his hands had been so often soiled with the blood of men. It would be his son Solomon who would take on the task of building this magnificent, yet provisional structure that came to house the Presence of God leading up to the exiles. But it was not until a thousand years later when the eternal Son of God underwent human birth that the Presence of God would come to arrive in its final permanent, physical residence – as a human, as one of us.
In the Gospel reading for today, we capture the astonishment of the Virgin Mary who like Solomon before her was commissioned to participate in knitting together a habitation for God’s Presence, yet like David felt like it was impossible to do so due to significant barriers in the way (for David, moral reasons – for Mary, an obvious physical one), “’How can this be, since I have no relations with a man?’ And the angel said to her in reply, ‘The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. Therefore the child to be born will be called holy, the Son of God.’”