Many times when I reflect on the readings for the day, before I begin to write my thoughts, I will return to the fuller passages in the bible, or look online for some additional context to help me understand the selections. Today there are a couple of items to note from the editing process that help me understand better what the readings say to me.
From Samuel, one of the verses that were omitted, # 13, is the statement that David’s heir, not David, is the one who will build the house in the Lord’s name. The context of Luke is that Zechariah is prophesying about his son, John the Baptist.
So what do these two passages mean? David wants to build a grand temple for the Lord. God rejects this idea, indicating that while David and his lineage had been and would be blessed greatly through the ages, it would be David’s heir who was to build the house in the Lord’s name. The Israelite peoples took this to mean a temple building, a house of worship and celebration of the goodness of the Lord, which David’s heir Solomon subsequently built. They also took this to mean an heir of David would appear who would be the messiah, a savior who would restore the glory and peace that existed because David had conquered the enemies of Israel and unified the kingdom and territory.
We Christians believe that David’s heir is Jesus, the messiah. The original disciples and early Christians came to understand that Jesus did not become heir to a restored kingdom of David (as they had anticipated), but to something much greater. We believe that Jesus, the heir, did not come just to build a temple, or even a kingdom, but to transform our whole relationship with God. Jesus helps us see that the house of the Lord is the kingdom of God made manifest both here in our lives and hereafter in our next life.
In Luke we read that Zechariah’s doubts about his child (his lack of faith in the angel’s prophecy) are removed and his speech returns, a wondrous event for those who are in witness. His own inspired prophetic discourse about his son reinforces the lineage of Jesus as from the root of David, and His place as the Savior. Hearkening back to Isaiah’s Promise of Salvation in Ch. 40 (wonderfully put to music by Handel), Zechariah sees his son John as one who will cry out from the desert to prepare the way for the Lord through preaching repentance and baptism.
So the message of these readings on this last day of Advent before Christmas Eve is to remind us of the connection of Jesus to events that took place almost 3,000 years ago, when David ruled the kingdom of Israel. God reinforced the covenant with man and sent an heir to David to build a house in the name of the Lord. This house is not what people expected but is so much more – a new way of understanding our being with the Lord and each other. Our short Advent journey is almost over, but it impresses me that our predecessors in this faith journey had much longer “Advents” to negotiate. Their faith made it possible for us to realize the loving peace that we receive from Jesus.
And so my prayer today is one of gratitude – for the faith of so many generations that preceded me, for the steadfastness and resolve for those who kept the dream alive, for the fulfillment of God’s promises in the person of Jesus, and for the love of God who holds us lightly and lovingly all our days.
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