24 December 2016
2 Samuel 7:1-5,8-12,14,16
Once David had settled into his house and the Lord had given him rest from all the enemies surrounding him, the king said to the prophet Nathan, ‘Look, I am living in a house of cedar while the ark of God dwells in a tent.’ Nathan said to the king, ‘Go and do all that is in your mind, for the Lord is with you.’
But that very night the word of the Lord came to Nathan:
‘Go and tell my servant David, “Thus the Lord speaks: Are you the man to build me a house to dwell in? I took you from the pasture, from following the sheep, to be leader of my people Israel; I have been with you on all your expeditions; I have cut off all your enemies before you. I will give you fame as great as the fame of the greatest on earth. I will provide a place for my people Israel; I will plant them there and they shall dwell in that place and never be disturbed again; nor shall the wicked continue to oppress them as they did, in the days when I appointed judges over my people Israel; I will give them rest from all their enemies. The Lord will make you great; the Lord will make you a House. And when your days are ended and you are laid to rest with your ancestors, I will preserve the offspring of your body after you and make his sovereignty secure. I will be a father to him and he a son to me; if he does evil, I will punish him with the rod such as men use, with strokes such as mankind gives. Your House and your sovereignty will always stand secure before me and your throne be established for ever.”’
John’s father Zechariah was filled with the Holy Spirit and spoke this prophecy:
‘Blessed be the Lord, the God of Israel
for he has visited his people, he has come to their rescue
and he has raised up for us a power for salvation
in the House of his servant David,
even as he proclaimed,
by the mouth of his holy prophets from ancient times,
that he would save us from our enemies
and from the hands of all who hate us.
Thus he shows mercy to our ancestors,
thus he remembers his holy covenant
the oath he swore
to our father Abraham
that he would grant us, free from fear,
to be delivered from the hands of our enemies,
to serve him in holiness and virtue
in his presence, all our days.
And you, little child,
you shall be called Prophet of the Most High,
for you will go before the Lord
to prepare the way for him,
to give his people knowledge of salvation
through the forgiveness of their sins;
this by the tender mercy of our God
who from on high will bring the rising Sun to visit us,
to give light to those who live
in darkness and the shadow of death
and to guide our feet
into the way of peace.’
I have been with you on all your expeditions
‘And you, little child, you shall be called Prophet of the Most High, for you will go before the Lord to prepare the way for him…’ Which father will give up his child for a good that he cannot see, may not live to see, and can only have faith that there be a purpose in the sacrifice?
As I pondered the readings of the Gospel today, I dwelt in the scene of Zechariah bravely proclaiming by the power of the Holy Spirit, the awesome prophecy over not just the history and future of Jerusalem, but his very own son, John the Baptist. Zechariah and Elizabeth had yearned and prayed for a son until, finally, their prayers were answered in their old age. They had a great model couple before them, though they may not have expected to walk similar footsteps. The other aged father and son duo is Abraham and Issac from the Old Testament.
Abraham and Zechariah were both men of great and deep faith. Great, in the expanse and expense of how they were willing to offer up to God their lives and love. Deep, in the manner of certainty and substance with which they believed their hopes rested on. Even though Zechariah did not physically set up the altar and wood with which to sacrifice John on, his act of bringing John up in the way of the Lord and giving him up to that wilderness life to pave the way for Jesus was an extreme act of sacrifice and exercise in letting go. Both fathers and mothers had waited a long, long time for their dreams of progeny and continuity to be fulfilled, only to be told to offer up this beautiful gift.
It is in this vein that we begin to more fully comprehend the sacrifice of the Heavenly Father. Because it can be hard to imagine an abstract omnipotent and omniscient God actually sacrificing flesh and blood, we are given human examples to watch, walk with, and listen to.
Long before Jesus was born, a man and a woman gave up their versions and visions of married life for God’s greater purpose. Sometimes, we may take the ordinariness of their life before Jesus for granted. They did not know how or when, but they simply knew who they were doing it for. Mary and Joseph must have drawn from the lessons of their forebears to walk this challenging but life-giving road in to Bethlehem. Mary and Joseph may not have expected their story and choice to bring Jesus to birth in that dingy soggy manger, to bear God’s greatest gift and salvation plan for all of humanity.
Our Salvation came through a choice to sacrifice. God made a choice too. May we each, as parent and child, ponder the magnitude of Mary’s fiat, Joseph’s silent but steady servantship, and God’s great sacrifice, in this beatific vision of the Nativity scene, where an extraordinarily ordinary baby was born. Ordinary, because we all experience the mystery and magic of birth. Yet, extraordinary because this little helpless baby came vulnerable, to reveal in us our need for a great Love that would die for us.
To find the courage in our lives to do the great and little things for God and our loved ones, is to remember this line which God spoke to David in our first reading: I have been with you on all your expeditions. God is Faithfulness and Love. And the evidence of this is the gift of His Son Jesus Christ, Emmanuel – God-is-with-us (Isaiah 7:14).
(Today’s OXYGEN by Debbie Loo)
Prayer: May we take time this Christmastide to dwell in the true reason for this day – Jesus who is ever with us on all of life’s journeys.
Thanksgiving: Thank you Jesus for entering my heart this Advent and gently preparing me to receive you.