4th Sunday of Advent
2 Samuel 7:1-5, 8b-12, 14a, 16
We conclude the Advent season this week, bringing to a head basic perceptions about the coming celebration of the birth of Jesus Christ. A certain highpoint is reached today. It concerns the breaking through of a major, perhaps THE major, revelation God wishes to transmit to us: that He is a Creator God, the ultimate source of life-and that an appreciation of life is the best way to "understand" Him.
Christmas Day itself will address this life theme best of all, in the form of the infant born of Mary. But, by way of immediate preparation for this break-through manifestation, we hear God instruct the submissive prophet Nathan today about what He has been about throughout the history of the Jewish people leading up to David, almost as if God is miffed, as a provoked teacher, that such a prized student as Nathan could overlook a very important fact: God has been busy firming up the house of David as a fertile source of life for Israel.
And today’s reading from St. Paul supports the tenor of this insight, laying out "the mystery kept secret for long ages" about the revelation of God through Jesus Christ as eternal and wise, as He brings to completion the full manifestation of Himself in the living person of Jesus. Who better illustrates St. Irenaeus’: "The glory of God is man fully alive"?
The climax of this exposition of Who God is takes place in the words of Gabriel to Mary-words focusing on the new life-form to come about in her, Who will also be the Son of "the Most High": a double life-form, so to speak, to make unmistakably clear how God wants to reveal Himself to us: under the guise of life.
This revelation of God as One Who brings forth life is a manifestation of Himself as Creator. This is how He wishes to be known. The current insistence of the church on the worth and dignity of life is not only aimed at safeguarding vulnerable human life, but also at laying down an apologetic for coming to appreciate God for Who He is: the source and creator of life. Christmas leads to an appreciation, not only of infant life, but also of divine life.
Fr. Sebastian MacDonald, C.P. is a member of the Passionists community at Catholic Theological Union, Chicago.