Advent is Hope: In God's Order

Fourth Sunday of Advent

2 Samuel 7:1-11; 16

This lection is directly tied to the gospel for the day (Luke 1:26-38). But apart from that, this message from God to David marks a turning point in the history of God's people.

David wants to be a good and grateful king. Now that he has had rest from his enemies, he wants to do what any self-respecting king would do for his God: he wants to build a temple. He wants God to have a good name and a secure place among the nations. Apparently David is in charge of the kingdom and its future. And of God?

No. God intervenes. The passage makes crystal clear the fact that God is in charge of the kingdom and its future. And God does not need David to manage the kingdom by worldly standards to secure its future. Instead of permitting David to build a temple for him, God promises to build a house (meaning "family" not "building") for David that will last forever. God sets David's good intentions aside and replaces them with a promise of a forever family and kingdom.

Later religious authorities reduced that promise also to meanings that were manageable by political and military powers. But read the gospel for today (Luke 1:26-38). Once again, God intervenes to fulfill this promise in a way no one could predict or accomplish. When God's promises are ripe, they keep bursting into new fulfillments that no one can manage. Thank God that the kingdom is not in our hands. What surprises are next?

Romans 16:25-27

The doxology that concludes the letter to the Romans draws light from the earlier doxology in 11:33-36. The earlier doxology concludes Paul's teaching about how salvation by God's grace in Jesus Christ is for both Jew and Gentile. It introduces Paul's teaching about living obediently in the Christian community. That is what doxologies are for: to praise God and to prepare us for service.

The present doxology has similar themes within it. It is a round of praise to God for the preaching of Christ that leads to the obedience of faith. In Jesus Christ, God has made salvation known to all nations. The long-kept secret is out. We, like Paul, are under God's command to let the nations in on the secret and to bring about the obedience that comes from a true, deep faith.

Doxologies do not have to wait until we hear the angels sing on Christmas Day. Doxologies have a way of reaching into the future and pulling it back into the present. Glory to God!

Luke 1:26-38

She was nobody, this Mary. She was from the land of darkness—Nazareth of Galilee. She was Mary Nobody from Nowhere. The angel greets her: "Hello, favored one, the Lord is with you."

If the experience of God's absence is disturbing—as in earlier Advent readings—the experience of God's presence can be even more troubling. Mary would never be the same.

Gabriel brings incredible news. The birth of Mary's son will be the birth of God's Son, whose kingdom will be forever. There is nothing Mary can do to guarantee it will happen. There is nothing Mary can do to prevent it. The Holy Spirit will accomplish the impossible. Mary accepts and submits to the Word of God. Even her availability is God's doing.

God's Son, the forever king, came to the world by the power of the Holy Spirit through Mary Nobody from Nowhere. God's Son still comes to the world by the power of the Holy Spirit through the church of his choice. Do we want to be available? Or would we be more comfortable if he chose someone else?


About the cover...

God is in charge of the kingdom and its future. God intervenes to fulfill his promises in a way no one could predict. When God's promises are ripe, they burst into new and unforeseeable fulfillments. The white circle of God's love enters into the fibers of our distorted lives and glows with a new intensity.

The bulletins and banner were designed by Chris Stoffel Overvoorde as published in Reformed Worship 29 (Fall, 1993)

Roger Van Harn was a pastor in the Christian Reformed Church.


Reformed Worship 29 © September 1993, Calvin Institute of Christian Worship. Used by permission.