24 Dec 2019
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.’
And to guide our feet into the way of peace
I have just returned from a 12-day pilgrimage to the Holy Land and was blessed to have walked in the land where Jesus lived, preached, died and then rose and ascended into heaven. Celebrating daily mass at the many holy sites was truly all I wanted and, particularly so at the Holy Sepulchre (on Golgotha) and in a boat on the Sea of Galilee, I felt His presence strongly.
We also had an hour of adoration in front of the Blessed Sacrament one evening, in the chapel within the convent where we were staying in Jerusalem, and as I struggled to understand His supreme sacrifice (we had visited the home of Caiaphas and prayed Psalm 88 in the very dungeon Jesus spent the night before his crucifixion), I asked in my heart how is it that God would have put his only son through all that pain, torture and misery. As the days wore on, and as I understood more about the situation in the region, I found myself marveling at how, in spite of all the ridicule, persecution and deep-seated doubts among the people, Jesus trusted in His Father and simply carried on preaching and performing miracles.
I don’t think anyone of us would ever be able to fathom the depths of His love for us. And that is the point for me – Jesus, Son of God, brought into this world in the form of an infant in a manger (it is a trough used to feed animals in a barn) – went through so much just so that we, you and I, could be saved and by believing and trusting in Him (“I am the Way, the Truth and the Life” – Jn 14:6), enjoy an eternity filled with peace, love and joy.
Our journeys each day around Bethlehem, Galilee, Tiberias and Jerusalem itself were certainly ‘peaceful’. But I could also sense the tension and conflict around us. It was something that gnawed on my mind each day, especially as we went past walls and through checkpoints manned by troops with machine guns. Why, in this holy land, should there be a need for such ‘war-like’ measures? It was obvious that the peace on the ground was a ‘managed’ one, which should not be taken for granted. There is a tolerance among the inhabitants (I would be hard pressed to identify each race, except for the Jews) and all it would take it a seemingly minor infraction to set off a violent reaction.
And so, I can only imagine what it would have been like in the time of Jesus. Literally, one would need all the patience of a saint to navigate through the land. Who else but Jesus could have journeyed from Nazareth, through the Valley of Arpel, to Capernaum via Magdala. Who else but Jesus could have endured the temptation of the devil in the dry land of Jericho, to then journey to Jerusalem and to his eventual slaughter? For us to have such a ‘guide’ brothers and sisters is truly a blessing and a privilege.
I left Israel filled with new thoughts and certainly a deeper appreciation of the significance of that appearance of the star above the fields where the shepherds were grazing their flock. A star that hovered over where the Church of the Nativity now stands, with a fourteen-pointed star marking the spot where our Saviour was born. It is where salvation began for us…and continues today in our hearts. Let us eschew the trappings of Christmas for once, and focus on the birth of little child to a young virgin called Mary, and her betrothed, a carpenter named Joseph.
(Today’s OXYGEN by Desmond Soon)
Prayer: Father, we await the birth of your Son tonight with expectant faith. Give us the courage to open our hearts so that He can be born within us again.
Thanksgiving: Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit, as it was in the beginning is now and ever shall be, world without end. Amen.