This week’s Bible readings seem haphazard: David and Nathan (not that story), blessings on Roman Christians, Gabriel’s annunciation to Mary, and Mary’s song. And the Mary stories aren’t even in chronological order! But careful reading reveals two “golden threads” running through them: God’s benevolent action in fulfilling divine promises and the widening inclusiveness of beneficiaries of God’s benevolence.
In 2 Samuel 7, King David wants to build God a “house.” God doesn’t want one and tells Nathan to tell David, “The Lord will make you a house,” a dynasty (v. 11). Remember that when you hear Christmas references to “house and lineage of David.” In Romans 16, Paul reminds Roman Christians of God’s mysterious inclusion of the Gentiles “made known through the prophetic writings” (v. 26). God expands promises to people to whom they weren’t originally made.
Gabriel announces that Mary’s son will have “the throne of his ancestor David” and “will reign . . . forever” (Luke 1:32-33). The promise to David is to be fulfilled in Jesus of Nazareth. (Nazareth!?) Mary greets Elizabeth, who confirms Gabriel’s promise saying, “Blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfillment of what was spoken to her by the Lord” (Luke 1:45). In response, Mary sings the Magnificat, which closes by affirming that all it describes is “according to the promise [God] made to our ancestors, to Abraham and his descendants forever.”
These texts disclose God’s faithfulness in fulfilling promises—some made generations ago—not only to those to whom they were made and their descendants but to everyone. God’s hesed (loving-kindness) includes David, Mary, Paul’s church in Rome, Gentiles, and us. We are challenged to accept with Mary’s faithful hope the promises God announces which, in the fullness of God’s time, will be fulfilled.
What promises to you has God fulfilled? What divine promises await fulfillment?
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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