Merry Christmas Eve! I will HOPEFULLY have two lessons up for today, this Advent lesson and then the lesson for the Nativity of Our Lord. It’s a busy church day. On to the lesson…
Gospel: Luke 1:26-38
We are in Luke for today’s lesson. Remember that Mark really begins with Jesus’ ministry as an adult. The story of Jesus’ birth is told in Matthew and Luke.
To take a quick look at Luke, remember that this is the third of the Synoptic Gospels. Luke was apparently an assistant or student of Paul’s. Luke also wrote the book of Acts, which is where he makes his appearance in the action. Luke has a more distinctly Greek approach to language and action; for example, where he references Hebrew scripture, he does so quoting the Greek Septuagint. Of the three Synoptics, Luke is plainly writing for the more Gentile-oriented.
As a matter of fact, he is also writing for the marginalized. I tend to think of Matthew as the Gospel most oriented to Jewish life, and of Mark as the “just-the-facts-ma’am” Gospel. Luke spends far more time talking about the women (in particular) who were part of Jesus’ ministry. It’s in this Gosepl that we hear Mary’s song and then meet the women at Jesus’ tomb many years later.
The passage today is known as “The Anunciation,” the moment when the angel Gabriel came to Mary and told her what was about to happen.
Earlier in Chapter 1, Gabriel told Zechariah that he and his wife Elizabeth would, even at their advanced age, give birth to a son. He would be John the Baptist. Zechariah’s reaction? He pushed back: “How do I know this is so?” You might even say his reacting was to scoff. That lack of faith led him to lose his voice until John’s birth.
What a contrast with Mary! Think about this: she’s much, much younger than Zechariah, and she wasn’t married, and her news was vastly more shocking than Zechariah’s. But her reaction?
- v. 34: “How can this be?” and then
- v. 38: “Here am I, the servant of the Lord; let it be according to your word.”
WOW. That is dramatic submission to God! That is summed up very well in Gabriel’s response to Mary in v. 37: “For nothing is impossible with God.”
Verse 35 is a really interesting look at the triune God. In this one verse is it apparent that the Holy Sprit is only acting within the power of God the Father (“Most High”), and the child born is God’s Son. There are not many places in the Bible that succinctly reference all three persons of the Trinity. I think (but I’m not 100% sure) that this is the first to do so in such a direct manner.
Finally, remember that we have been talking about John the Baptist a lot in earlier weeks. This Gospel expressly links John the Baptist and Jesus even before they were born. And consider Elizabeth and Mary, cousins, both caught up with inconvenient pregnancies. Elizabeth was so mortified she had gone into seclusion for the previous five months. And Mary! Very young, unmarried, promised to a man who could have rejected her. How wonderful that God provided their relationship to them, to give them the support they would need. Imagine the conversations, the wonder between the two of them, as they knew that God was working something incredible in these two women in Palestine. What a precious friendship they must have had in those months they spent together.
Old Testament: 2 Samuel 7:1-11, 16
David? This doesn’t seem very Christmas-y…except that remember, of course, that this is Advent, and we are seeing the fulfillment through Jesus of the Davidic covenant. This passage lays out the covenant given by God to David.
We see David here as King of Israel and finally at rest, but 2 Samuel leading up to this has been action-packed. David had to defeat Saul and Saul’s allies. He moved the capital to the city of Jerusalem. He fought the Philistines (his former supporters) and defeated them. Finally, he moved the Ark of the Covenant to Jerusalem, which proved to be extremely difficult. (Hint: don’t touch the Ark.)
Finally David is at rest. He looks around and says, “I think I’ll build God a Temple. Nathan [his prophet], what do you think?” And Nathan figures that since everything else that David has done is awesome, this will be too. Unfortunately, Nathan is wrong, and God informs him of that in a dream.
Ultimately the message is that while David might want to build God a temple, God wants to build David an everlasting dynasty. Do you see what God is doing here? David is wanting to put God in a building, however grand and beautiful, and however truly good his motivation. The Davidic covenant God makes tells David that God is so much bigger than that. David wanted to build a building for God; God wants to build an everlasting dynasty from David. “I will make you a house FOREVER…”
I wonder if God didn’t tell David that so he would remember that God wouldn’t and couldn’t be contained in a box. (Even a building-sized one?) I really believe that some of this was God telling David to remember where he came from–“Yes, you want to build me a building. But you can’t do this, a permanent dynasty. Only I can do that.”
Note that David’s kingship is not shaped by David. It’s shaped by God. And imagine this–God, at this time, knows that this is the family line that He will allow His Son to be born into.
Psalm 89:1-4, 19-26
Often the Psalm merely reiterates the ideas started in the Old Testament. This Psalm merits more attention. Psalm 89 is known as one of the “Royal” Psalms, a Psalm which points directly to the kingship of Jesus.
The Royal Psalms have five special emphases:
- The Covenant
- The crowning of David and his sons
- High expectations of kingship
- The special relationship between God and the kings
- God’s unbreakable promise
The Psalm points to Jesus. The first few verses really describe David’s wonder and response to God’s generous covenant. But later parts of this Psalm are a lament following the destruction of Jerusalem.
The later verses of our Psalm today (v. 19-26) tell us a lot about God’s nature and how He will act. We see wonderful descriptions of faithfulness and steadfast love.
New Testament: Romans 16:25:27
A mystery. These verses talk about a mystery of Jesus that was secret but is now revealed. This reading is so cool to me–it is the link between the Old Testament reading and the Gospel.
In the OT reading, Nathan announces to David that God will do something. He will make the line of David an everlasting kingship. But how? Nathan doesn’t say, and it isn’t immediately apparent how this can come to pass.
But in the Gospel reading, Gabriel announces a new thing to Mary. He divulges the resolution to the secret that God had laid out so many years before his announcement to David.
This is it–the secret is out!