A Shelter Fit for a King

Fourth Sunday of Advent

2 Samuel 7:1-5, 8B-12, 14A, 16

When King David was settled in his palace, and the LORD had given him rest from his enemies on every side, he said to Nathan the prophet, "Here I am living in a house of cedar, while the ark of God dwells in a tent!" Nathan answered the king, "Go, do whatever you have in mind, for the LORD is with you." But that night the LORD spoke to Nathan and said: "Go, tell my servant David, 'Thus says the LORD: 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. I have been with you wherever you went, and I have destroyed all your enemies before you. And I will make you famous like the great ones of the earth. I will fix a place for my people Israel; I will plant them so that they may dwell in their place without further disturbance. Neither shall the wicked continue to afflict them as they did of old, since the time I first appointed judges over my people Israel. I will give you rest from all your enemies. The LORD also reveals to you that he will establish a house for you. And when your time comes and you rest with your ancestors, I will raise up your heir after you, sprung from your loins, and I will make his kingdom firm. I will be a father to him, and he shall be a son to me. Your house and your kingdom shall endure forever before me; your throne shall stand firm forever."

Rome 16:25-27

Brothers and sisters: To him who can strengthen you, according to my gospel and the proclamation of Jesus Christ, according to 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, to the only wise God, through Jesus Christ be glory forever and ever. Amen.

Luke 1:26-38

The angel Gabriel was sent from God to a town of Galilee called Nazareth, to a virgin betrothed to a man named Joseph, of the house of David, and the virgin's name was Mary. And coming to her, he said, "Hail, full of grace! The Lord is with you." 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. He will be great and will be called Son of the Most High, and the Lord God will give him the throne of David his father, and he will rule over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end." But Mary said to the angel, "How can this be, since I have no relations with a man?" And the angel said to her in reply, "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 called holy, the Son of God. And behold, Elizabeth, your relative, has also conceived a son in her old age, and this is the sixth month for her who was called barren; for nothing will be impossible for God." Mary said, "Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord. May it be done to me according to your word." Then the angel departed from her.

On this Fourth Sunday of Advent, the last stop before the celebration of the birth of Christ – the ultimate miracle and expression of God’s love – the image of a shelter permeates the wonderful scenes presented in this week’s readings. When we think of a shelter, a few images may come to mind: a tent, a gazebo, a log cabin, a humble cottage, a soup kitchen, a palace, a grand mustard tree, a parent’s or grandparent’s open arms, or perhaps a manger. The image of a shelter evokes strength, confidence, warmth, and most of all, safety. Hikers seek refuge under the green foliage of trees against the pouring rain or burning sun; travellers seek a restful evening at an inn or hotel; refugees desire for a safe haven against persecutions; pilgrims on earth long to rest in the immense love and peace of God. As we journey through Advent, all we can do is to put one foot in front of another, until we reach the ultimate shelter, a lowly manger sheltering a humble family of three. All our darkness, hardships, longing and waiting, culminate in the immense light, comfort, joy, love, and glory of the newborn King.

What is a fitting shelter for our Lord and God; King of kings, and Lord of lords? King David, who may feel a little embarrassed that he, a mere servant of God, lives in luxury while God is relegated to a humble tent, wants to build a proper dwelling for God, “Here I am living in a house of cedar, while the ark of God dwells in a tent” (2 Sam 7:2). While David wants to build a physical dwelling for God, God wants to build something far greater with David.

[God] will establish a house for you […] I will raise up your heir after you, sprung from your loins, and I will make his kingdom firm. I will be a father to him, and he shall be a son to me. Your house and your kingdom shall endure forever before me; your throne shall stand firm forever.’
(2 Sam 7:11-16)

It turns out that God is a far more superior architect than David! At the same time, how wonderful and mysterious that God chooses to include David in His salvific plan; from David’s house springs forth the eternal King, Prophet, and High Priest (Son of God), and the Kingdom of God will reign over its citizens’ hearts. In truth, our loving God does not need a “cedar house”; rather, we need to dwell in God and at the same time, humbly allowing God to dwell in us.

Just like the story of “The Three Little Pigs”, if we rely on our own assumptions and wits, our house will only be as feeble as straw or sticks that do not stand a chance against the Big Bad Wolf. St. Paul reminds us that God is our true strength, “… who can strengthen you” (Rm 16:25). When we allow God to be the architect of our lives; finally, a house built with solid bricks.

How would you describe Mary, the handmaid of God, as a house? Though she appears to be fragile and vulnerable, this house sits on the strongest foundation. She is terrified and filled with apprehension when the angel Gabriel tells her that not only will she bear a son, “who will be called Son of the Most High”, but this child will also become king (Lk 1:32). Yet, here she stands, fully vulnerable but fully open to God’s plan, accepting God’s invitation out of the sheer strength of her faith, “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord. May it be done to me according to your word” (Lk 1:38).

So, ultimately, what is a fitting shelter for God? According to God’s vision, a simple and humble manger seems to be just fine. The simplicity of its structure does not compete with its content but willingly allows light to shine through it. The cracked, scarred, and weathered logs are not ashamed of their appearance but are dignified by what’s inside, and are filled with gratitude for their ability to provide shelter even through their own brokenness. As we journey through this last stretch of Advent, we walk with hope and joy, confident that we will find refuge in the humble manger and the Son of God will find dwelling in our heart.

Posted: December 20, 2020

Susanna Mak

 
Susanna深信,信仰需要在日常生活中顯露出來,尤其是當與別人相處時,需要分擔對方所面對的困境、抉擇和挑戰。她有着很多不同的身份:女兒、姐姐、朋友、姨姨、妻子、老師、校牧、終身學習者和偶爾替《生命恩泉》寫作的作者。在每一個身份當中, 她努力為天主的愛和希望作見証。 她在多倫多擔任高中教師近二十年,擁有英語、學生讀寫能力、青年領袖活動、校牧組等經驗。 她是多倫多大學商業和英語學士,教育學士,亞省Athabasca大學綜合研究碩士,以及擁有多倫多大學Regis學院神學研究碩士證書。她對於成為《生命恩泉》寫作團隊的一份子, 深感榮幸。 Susanna has a deep conviction that faith needs to be manifested in daily life, particularly, in one’s encounters with others as well as amidst dilemmas, choices, and challenges. She strives to be a living sign of God’s love and hope as a daughter, sister, friend, aunt, wife, teacher, chaplain, life-long learner, and occasional writer for FLL. She has been a high school teacher in Toronto for almost 20 years, with experiences in English and literacy, youth leadership initiatives, the Chaplaincy Team, to mention a few. She has a B. Comm, B.A. in English, and a B. Education from University of Toronto, an M.A. in Integrated Studies from Athabasca University, and a Graduate Certificate of Theological Studies from Regis College, U of T. She is humbled by the opportunity to be part of the FLL Writing Team.


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