Grace Presbyterian Church
December 24, 2017, Advent 4B
2 Samuel 7:1-11, 16
One Final Advent Meditation
It may seem strange to stop and take time for a passage from 2 Samuel, of all places, before plunging into the service of lessons and carols, that massive processional of scripture and song that draws a line from the fall of humanity to the birth of Jesus, tracing God’s loving action throughout the history of humanity to redeem that which is lost.
On the other hand, though it is not part of that traditional service, the story in this chapter is in many ways readable as a part of that design. In his instruction to King David through the prophet Nathan, God sure seems to be laying the groundwork for how that coming Messiah is to be understood, as a great leader in the line of David. Indeed, if you hear references to David in the carols and anthems of Christmas, passages like this one are part of the reason why; God’s promise to David is interpreted over the ages as pointing to Jesus as being of the lineage of David. Given that David’s actual royal lineage didn’t fare to well after his death, with the kingdom he once ruled in power being first divided and then conquered, it’s not surprising that a new interpretation of a passage like this would be sought.
Still, though, there’s more to this story. It’s not just what God promises David that tells us something about the coming Messiah; it’s also what God forbids to David that tells us something as well.
David’s intentions seem honorable enough. He lives in a lavish palace, but the Ark of the Covenant, the very symbol of the presence of God, is still sheltered in a tent. That’s not right, David decides, and resolves to do something about it. The prophet Nathan signs off on the idea without doing his prophetic due diligence, and for that he gets jolted awake with instruction from God, instruction to rein in David’s plans.
God has to remind David who provides for who. Who caused David to be pulled out of the sheep pasture and end up king? Who brought down David’s enemies, both personal and geographical? Who made David? God. God provides for David, not the other way around.
Even more is God’s other point. Since when did God ask David for a “house”? Did God complain about the tent? No. God has dwelt not in a fancy temple or palace, but God has lived among the people – “tented” among the people, so to speak. God is among the people, and does not deign to give it up because David has an itch to build a fancy building.
This says something about God, something that will be made even clearer in the Nativity. A God who chooses to be born among us humans, who chooses to take on humanity in full and live among us humans as one of us, is not a God that will be confined in fancy palaces or temples or cathedrals or churches. God is not bound to a building. God chooses to be among the people that God loves and wants to redeem.
There is, indeed, the miracle of Christmas. A God who, mighty and all-powerful and all-knowing and transcendent, still comes to us, born an infant in a feed trough in an out-of-the-way place far from thrones and palaces.
David didn’t understand it, and we still don’t understand it most of the time. But God will not be confined; the name “Immanuel” – “God-with-us” – is still Immanuel, God still with us, as God came to be with us on that Bethlehem night in what once had been the city of his ancestor David.
For a God not bound to temples, Thanks be to God. Amen.