2 Samuel 7:1-11, 16, Romans 16:25-27, Luke 1:26-38, Canticle 15
At first glance it seems that God has entered the real estate game. I can picture God seated in a small and tastefully furnished office ticking off the necessities of a new dwelling place. And yet the point of 2 Samuel is that God doesn’t need us to build a house, God desires to build US a house; that is, a place to dwell.
As we drop in on 2 Samuel God has made good on God’s promise, and David sits securely on the throne that is in the house that God arranged for him. David decides to make God a house. Through Nathan God says that a house is not needed. We might do well to acknowledge that 2 Samuel was written during the time of Babylonian captivity because doing so leaves us with two messages: 1. not only does God *not* need a solid two story ranch on a quiet cul de sac (nor a soaring cathedral fitted with rood screens and stained glass). And 2. We have space to wonder if the God of captivity and defeat is the same God of victory and rest.
Is the God we experienced last Christmas the same God this year?
Is God present in exile? Is God present when the house we have built for God will not resound with carols and hymns this year, but will instead house a few ministers trying in livestream or precorded tension to make the incarnation real to a weary people? Is God present when the church is dark and empty?
Is the house we built for God, to bring God out of that “tent”, really only the one that we used to visit on Sundays? Or is the house of God one that God built inside each one of us?
Does the gospel of Luke make each of us the theotokos? The God Bearer? Are we God’s house?
Does the in the beginning word, the baptism and the annointing that seals and marks us as God’s own mean that we too bear the image of God? How can you give that hope to a weary world? How can you make us understand that even though we cannot pack the pews this Christmas, though we cannot endure or enjoy large family gatherings, though Christmas sure seems, well, not festive at all, as though we really are in exile — how can we dig deep and provide hope in the very true and enduring word of God?
Mary’s consent, and her joyful and damning proclamation may sum it up. As the old hymn goes, “to me be as it pleaseth God,” she said. Through Gabriel Mary has been invited into the ever creating world of God as the house, the vessel, the carer of the Word incarnate. Mary suddenly understands a world that is upended, a world that reflects back the true nature of God to God – a place where the hungry are full, where the poor are not cast out. Mary sees and proclaims a world that mirrors the kingdom God desires, and Mary understands that the bringing of that world must begin with her.
As if you needed one more idea, Romans adds the courage and encouragement to be bearers of God, bearers of the kingdom. God who is ABLE to strengthen you…
Notice none of these passages talk about church as we know it. Notice the theme of exile, notice the pain of a world that is not the right way round, notice the prominence of hope, the reminder that God has and will act – through the most unlikely people, and in ways that seems unbelievable.
The Feast of the Incarnation was never about what the modern world has made it into – it was always about being vessels of God, about making room in our lives for the work and will of God, about the reign and justice of a God who asks each of us to do the messy and painful work of birthing the kingdom.
Good luck preachers. You have my prayers in these difficult times.
Alicia Hager resides in West Michigan and is a Postulant to the Sacred Order of Priests in the Episcopal Church. Alicia enjoys spending time with her daughters and her husband, is bonkers about her cats, and blogs at astrawberrypointe.wordpress.com.
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