4th Sunday in Advent
December 21, 2008 Year: B
2 Sam. 7:1-5, 8b-12, 14a, 16; Rom16:25-27; Lk. 1:26-38
Here I am, the servant of the Lord
"Now when David, the king, was settled in his house, and
the Lord had given him rest from all the enemies around
him, the king said to the prophet Nathan, 'See now, I am
living in a house of cedar, but the ark of God stays in
a tent.' Nathan said to the king, 'Go, do all that you
have in mind, for the Lord is with you.'
But that same night the word of the Lord came to Nathan:
'Go and tell my servant David: Thus says the Lord: Are
you the one to build me a house to live in? I took you
from the pasture, from following the sheep to be prince
over my people Israel: and I have been with you wherever
you went, and have cut off all your enemies from before
you: and I will make for you a great name, like the name
of the great ones of the earth.
'And I will appoint a place for my people Israel and
will plant them, so that they may live in their own
place, and be disturbed no more; and evildoers shall
afflict them no more, as formerly, from the time that I
appointed judges over my people Israel; and I will give
you rest from all your enemies.
'Moreover the Lord declares to you, David, that the Lord
will make you a house. When your days are fulfilled and
you lie down with your ancestors, I will raise up your
offspring after you, who shall come forth from your
body, and I will establish his kingdom.
'I will be a father to him, and he shall be a son to me.
Your house and your kingdom shall be made sure forever
before me; your throne, David, shall be established
forever.' [2 Sam. 7:1-5, 8-12, 14, 16]
"To God who is able to strengthen you according to my
gospel and the proclamation of Jesus Christ, according
to the revelation of the mystery that was kept secret
for long ages but is now disclosed, and through the
prophetic writings is made known to all the Gentiles,
according to the command of the eternal God, to bring
about the obedience of faith - to the only wise God,
through Jesus Christ, to whom be the glory forever!
Amen. [Rom. 16:25-7]
"In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent by God to
a town in Galilee called Nazareth, to a virgin engaged
to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David.
The virgin's name was Mary.
And the angel came to Mary and said, 'Greetings,
favoured one! The Lord is with you.' But she was much
perplexed by his words and pondered what sort of
greeting this might be.
The angel said to her, 'Do not be afraid, Mary, for you
have found favour with God. And now, you will conceive
in your womb and bear a son, and you will name him
'He will be great, and will be called the Son of the
Most High, and the Lord God will give to him the throne
of his ancestor David. He will reign over the house of
Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.'
Mary said to the angel, 'How can this be, since I am a
virgin?' The angel said to her, 'The Holy Spirit will
come upon you, and the power of the Most High will
overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be
holy; he will be called Son of God.
'And now, your relative Elizabeth in her old age has
also conceived a son; and this is the sixth month for
her who was said to be barren. For nothing will be
impossible with God.' Then Mary said, 'Here I am, the
servant of the Lord; let it be with me according to your
word.' Then the angel departed from her." [Lk. 1:26-38]
Not too long ago in a place not too far away, a field
mouse asked a wise old owl what is the weight of a
snowflake. "Why nothing more than nothing," answered the
The mouse went on to tell the owl about
the time he was resting on a branch in a fir tree,
counting each snowflake until the number was exactly 3
million, 471 thousand, 952. Then with the settling of
the very next flakeócrack. The branch suddenly snapped,
tumbling mouse and snow to the ground. "Humph ÖSuch was
the weight of nothing," said the mouse.
So the next time you think your
contributions, your acts of charity, your works for
justice, your gifts of love, and your talents are
nothing, or that they are small in comparison to those
of others, remember that when one is added to another,
and then to another and so forth, great things can
happen from nothing. In the same way, what seems to be
ordinary can be transformed into something extraordinary
with just a little extra nothing.
Your mission is to create great things
once again out of nothingness, to transform the ordinary
into the extraordinary.
Some years ago a vandal attacked Michelangeloís Pietŗ
with a hammer, seriously damaging the face and arm
of the figure of Mary. A magazine article suggested that
the act was a parable of the violence done Mary by the
church - by Roman Catholics who have idolized her and by
Protestants who have ignored her. While Protestants have
criticized Catholics for coming close to ascribing to
Mary the lead role in Godís salvation drama. Protestants
could be accused of making her into a prop. But we can
be thankful that Lukeís witness to the annunciation
(Luke 1:26-38) stands as a corrective.
comes to mind at the mention of Mary, Jesusí mother?
Pale blue? Alabaster statues? An unnatural look of
chaste perfection? Sneers about front-yard grottoes and
dashboard figurines? In Mary in the New Testament (Fortress,
1978) , in which collaborating Roman Catholic and
Protestant scholars examine what the churches and the
New Testament have said about Mary, the authors confess
that neither Catholic nor Protestant tradition and
practice have done Mary justice. The volume chases down
a host of unbiblical doctrines, some all the way to the
second century. Heresy-prone ascetics used the virgin
birth to develop the illegitimate dogma that chastity is
a higher calling than marriage. Yet the idea of Maryís
perpetual virginity became so popular that in the late
fourth century the faithful greeted with horror two
pro-marriage churchmenís suggestion that it was
biblically and historically justifiable to believe that,
following Jesusí birth, Mary had children by her husband
just as any other wife would. An outraged Jerome, then
the churchís leading biblical scholar, proposed that the
brothers and sisters of Jesus mentioned in the Bible
were really cousins. The simple, humble woman who gave
birth in a barn would come to be hailed by one
fifth-century writer as the one from whom came forth the
divine power which created heaven and earth. "Mother of
God," a title intended to stress Christís full humanity
and divinity, came to be taken literally. Mary became a
account shows the parallels between the announcement to
Mary and the foretelling to Zechariah of Johnís birth.
In both scenes the angel Gabriel brings word and is
greeted with fear. Both Zechariah and Mary are addressed
by name, urged not to fear and told they are about to
become parents of sons, each under extraordinary
circumstances. They are given their childrenís names, an
interpretation of the names and predictions of the
childrenís future. When Zechariah and Mary each wonder
aloud how such things could happen, each is given a sign
that will bear out the prediction. Wondrous, indeed. But
similar things have happened before, such as Ishmaelís
birth to Hagar in Genesis 16 and Isaacís birth to Sarah
in Genesis 17. Similar details surround the birth of
Samson in Judges.
Holy Spirit will come over you," the angels told Mary.
Only when discovering a point before salvation history,
before time, before anything, does the Bible use similar
beginning God created the heavens and the earth. The
earth was without form and void and darkness was on the
face of the deep; and the spirit of God was moving over
the face of the waters [Gen. 1:1-2].
Godís Spirit moved over the void before it was filled
with the heavens and the earth, so the same spirit
overshadowed Mary to place within her Godís own Son.
Karl Barth stressed, human initiative (particularly that
of the human male) is excluded. It is not conception at
all: it is creation.
Although Luke emphasizes Godís initiative, he also
records the human response. "I am the handmaid of the
Lord," Mary pledged. "let it be to me according to your
word." Luke recalls this when relating two other
incidents. In chapter 8, when Jesus is told that his
mother and brothers await him, he replies that his
mother and brothers are those who hear and do Godís
word. Then in chapter 11, when a well-meaning woman
pronounces blessings on Jesusí mother, Jesus responds
that the blessed are those who hear and do Godís word.
These stories by Luke (who is fairest to women of all
the evangelists) portray Mary as the first disciple.
Indeed, in Lukeís second volume, she is listed among
those huddled in the upper room (Acts 1).
In Here I
Stand, Roland Bainton wrote that Martin Luther saw
three miracles in Christís nativity:
God became human,
a virgin conceived
and Mary believed.
In Lutherís mind, the greatest was the
perceived Mary as a significant role model for all
of us. We discover anew each day that we have
trusted in people and things that canít deliver and,
like Lukeís original readers, we need direction and
hope. Luke points us to Mary. He presents her not as a
goddess, nor a stiff statue gathering cobwebs in a musty
cathedral, nor a plastic figurine molded with a sweet
and innocent countenance to stand lifeless in a
coffee-table crŤche. Lukeís Mary is a genuine example of
faith acted out in discipleship and response to Godís
Maryís ears had been less keen and her soul less
willing, she might not have understood. If her eyes had
been able to see only the broad, bold outlines of trial,
tragedy, rejection and hardship, she might not have
sensed the divine presence or heard Godís word of grace
and favor. But she heard and responded, even to such an
odd call in such a common hour of life.
reminds us that the oddest, most inglorious moments are
packed with the annunciation of Godís presence and Godís
call to serve.
Your mission is to create
great things once again out of nothingness, to transform
the ordinary into the extraordinary