Fourth Sunday of Advent

Readings: II Samuel 7: 1-11, 16; Psalm 89: 1-4, 19-26; Romans 16: 25-27; Luke 1: 26-38

Scripture, Holy Scripture, does not always get it right. Yes, we can say that out loud. There are examples in our readings this morning. Nathan, the prophet, did not get it right. King David, fresh from his victories over “all his enemies”, living in “a house of cedar”, noted that the Ark of the Covenant containing the stone tablets of the Ten Commandments handed to Moses on Mt. Sinai was only sheltered by the Tent of Meeting where Moses had consulted with God during the forty years of wilderness wanderings. King David thought that it was now time to build a temple for God, a dwelling for God. Nathan agreed, “Go, do all that you have in mind, for the Lord God is with you”.

Wrong! That very night the word of the Lord God came to Nathan and said have I ever said, “Why have you not built me a house of cedar?”  Rather, the Lord God declared, [I] will make you a house, …and your throne shall be established forever”. Yet, we now know that Nathan was not correct, for the Davidic dynasty was broken long ago.

Not only did Nathan not hear correctly, neither did the Psalmist. He incorrectly declared:

I have made a covenant with my chosen one;                                                               …I will establish your line for ever, and                                                                               preserve your throne for all generations.

In these two examples, the Psalmist and Nathan did not get it right. Neither did the author of our proper collect for today.

…that your Son Jesus Christ, at his coming, may find in us                                                      a mansion prepared for himself.

A mansion, think of a manor house in Great Britain, like Downton Abbey owned by the Crowley’s in the 1912-1926 era. They required servants to clean, servants to cook, and servants to help the principals dress each day with three or more outfits for each event of the day. And there were gradations of butlers and attendants. I remember one episode about all the fuss and the protocols about the visit of the King and Queen of England. The abbey was so full of stuff, so full of clutter, so full of servants to care of the Crowley’s and for the stuff found in their mansion. God does not need such a mansion.

I suggest a rather different setting for God coming among us. A teenaged girl, a village carpenter, a borrowed stable, a borrowed fed trough, doves cooing in the rafters, mice scattering along the dirt floor, perhaps an innkeeper’s lantern, and a blanket or two to ward off the drafts on a cold winter’s night. A rather simple setting, don’t you think?  On that first Christmas God kept it basic, plain, and simple. Basic, plain, and simple.

No mansion here.

I think that’s what God seeks in the hearts of the faithful. God seeks the humble of heart, hearts that yearn for the basic, that yearn for the uncomplicated, that yearn for the simple, the uncluttered.

No gold or silver service, no precisely tailored attire, no imported china, no leather-bound books shelved floor to ceiling, or upholstered velvet chairs. A rough-hewn stable, perhaps carved out of a hillside, straw freshly spread, curious animals as the guests. It was there that God’s most precious gift was given for us and our salvation.

God kept it simple that first Christman night, without pomp and circumstance, without glitz and glitter, without satin and silk.

Let’s get it right.

God seeks to illuminate the darkness with a teenage girl, a village carpenter, and a new-born babe. Basic, plain, and simple.

May we, as rough as we are, seek to provide a cradle in the manger of our hearts, perhaps lined with straw, and illumined with a wind-flickering lantern.

The Lord God kept it basic, plain, and simple. May we do the same.

Love came down at Christmas, love all lovely, love divine;                                                          love was born at Christmas; star and angels gave the sign.                                                    

Christina Rossetti, 19th c. poet, Hymn #84

No mansion required.


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