II Samuel 7:1-11, 16
Like taking a moment to sit down and rest over a cup of coffee after elbowing your way through the crowds on the last Saturday before Christmas, like that comes the 4th Sunday in Advent, this quiet Sunday morning, this bit of calm before the Christmas storm. So we sit and listen to the music and catch our breath before diving into the days of this hectic week. And here in the midst of the sitting and the music and the catching our breath, here the still small voice of God whispers to us in the Readings and in the music, “Fear not, for behold…I am with you.”
The world of the Bible seems so easy! I mean, listen to that stuff about King David. “I took you from the pasture, from following the sheep,” says the Lord, “that you should be prince over My people Israel…I have cut off all your enemies from before you. And I will make for you a great name, like the name of the great ones of the earth….your house and your kingdom shall be made sure forever before Me.”
Or consider Mary in the Gospel Reading. Young girl Mary. Engaged to be married, Mary. Then Gabriel appears and it all changes. A Baby who will turn her world upside down. A sword that will pierce her heart. But the angel says to her, “Fear not, for behold, what is to take place is from God. He is to be called Jesus, because ‘God with us’ means that ‘us’ are saved.” And Mary says, “Let it be…for the Lord is with me.”
Arrgh! Don’t these people get it? They’re not taking life seriously. Maybe the recently deceased Christopher Hitchens was right. He wrote in his over-the-top way that religion is “violent, irrational, intolerant, allied to racism and tribalism and bigotry, invested in ignorance and hostile to free inquiry, contemptuous of women and coercive toward children.” Well, then, no wonder King David expected God to hand everything to him on a silver platter.
And Mary. Doesn’t she know how the game is played? No angel should get to tell her what happens with her own body! Wake up, David! Get a grip! You don’t want to become part of the greedy 1%! Mary, don’t just sit there. Makes some noise! Occupy Nazareth. Get a petition going to recall someone.
After all, how can anyone seriously think that faith should have such a central place in the real events of a person’s life? Who lives in such a small, little world that faith should actually dictate the priorities of everything else? How…naïve! How…simplistic! How…like God.
While King David dreams of building God a kingly house like his own, the Lord tells David by the prophet, on the contrary, God will build you a house like His own…eternal.
While young Mary dreams of a marriage and life with Joseph, doubtless, as a devote Jew, inviting the God of Abraham to share her life and her house, the Lord tells her by the angel, on the contrary, God will build in a her a life like His own…holy.
And to us in this last moment of quiet before the final week into Christmas, in this waning Advent season where prophets have called us to prepare a place within our hearts for Christ to come and enter there…today the Lord God says to us, on the contrary, it is not you who build Him a place in your life. He is building a place for you in His life.
“Fear not,” He says. “Fear not, for behold, I am with you.” And it really is as simple as that. No…that doesn’t mean that all our troubles will vanish. It didn’t for David…they were only starting! Nor for Mary…the next 33 years were like a roller-coaster ride. Our troubles do not simply disappear…but things certainly gain a clarity and fall into perspective when the Lord says, “Fear not, for behold, I will build you a place with Me.”
Ah…but we gotta keep moving this morning…Christmas is calling. And even while I speak, no doubt your mind is already being crowded with things to do today and tomorrow and the next. Things to do. Places to go. Schedules to keep.
David did not stand still. Mary did not remain a young girl. Nor can we stay put for long. Yet in all of it, the Lord is with you, preparing a place for you. So behold…fear not!