There’s a moment in this Sunday’s first reading (2 SM 7:1-5, 8B-12, 14A, 16) where King David is sitting in his palace, feeling happy that his enemies are under control and that he’s in a pretty good place in life. Then the guilts strike.
“Here I am living in a house of cedar, while the ark of God dwells in a tent!”
God must have thought this was pretty cute. Here’s this kid he took off the farm and elevated to such a lofty position, worrying that his God might be feeling sad about his accommodations. The Lord sends this message to David through the prophet Nathan:
“Should you build me a house to dwell in? It was I who took you from the pasture and from the care of the flock to be commander of my people Israel.”
This exchange illustrates the gulf that separates God and man when it comes to values. Where God expects humility, we give him hubris. That we are arrogant enough to think we can do anything to control our Creator’s circumstances is so pathetic it’s funny. In the case of this reading, it’s the belief that anything David could build from earthly raw materials would be a worthy home for God that, coming from most other leaders, would be the height of arrogance. But where David is concerned, maybe it was simply innocence. Either way, this is one of those moments that reminds us of another Old Testament reading, this time from Isaiah 2:8-11, addressing the Lord’s day of reckoning:
“Their land also is full of idols; they worship the work of their own hands, that which their own fingers have made. … The lofty looks of man shall be humbled, and the haughtiness of men shall be bowed down, and the LORD alone shall be exalted in that day.”
David’s heart was in the right place, which is why he found favor with God in the first place. But God wanted a tabernacle that no human except Mary could give Him. This is a woman who never would have believed her womb was exactly the shelter he sought for His son—if God’s messenger hadn’t told her so, as recounted in our gospel reading (LK 1:26-38):
“Hail, full of grace! The Lord is with you,” says Gabriel.
But she was greatly troubled at what was said and pondered what sort of greeting this might be. Then the angel said to her,
“Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. Behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall name him Jesus.”
Mary was the only temple God the Father knew was worthy of housing His Son. So what does God expect from us? The return of a gift that only He could make possible, as Paul tells the Romans in our second reading (ROM 16:25-27):
“The revelation of the mystery kept secret for long ages but now manifested through the prophetic writings and, according to the command of the eternal God, made known to all nations to bring about the obedience of faith …”
Faith is God’s greatest gift to us, and exactly what HE wants from us for Christmas.