I love puns, especially those based on a double entendre, a word with more than one meaning (one often risqué!). These exchanges among David, Nathan, and God are based on a pun on house, which occurs seven times in twelve verses. The first five refer to a building; the other two a dynasty. David tells Nathan he wants to build God a house. God tells Nathan that God is going to build David a house. David wants to build an edifice (like all human creations, only temporary). God wants to give David a lineage, a divine creation, “forever.”
David’s house idea is iffy: gods who live in houses or temples are geographically limited, gods of a particular place. Israel’s God is the God of time, of history, and therefore is mobile. “I have moved about among all the people of Israel,” God reminds Nathan. “I have been with you wherever you went.” (Is this God’s oblique warning against sacralizing real estate?) Binding God to a location limits God. What God builds is not static; it is living, a people descended from David. “The Lord will make you a house,” a lineage, declares Nathan.
Matthew’s Gospel begins with a genealogy. Luke states that Joseph “was descended from the house and family of David” (2:4; Rom. 1:3). Through Jesus, whose birth we await, Christians are grafted into David’s family tree. This fact shocks Paul, who nevertheless makes it focal in his preaching. Peter declares that Christians “are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s own people. . . . Once you were not a people, but now you are God’s people” (1 Pet. 2:9-10). God builds an enormous house. We are it.
How do we settle for less than what God wants to give? Why do we build temporal houses instead of eternal lineages? How do we limit God?
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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