The Fourth Sunday in Advent (12/20/2020)

2 Sam. 7:1-11; 16; Rom. 16:25-27; Luke 1:26-38.

Mystery, [T]he preaching of Jesus Christ, according to the revelation of the mystery that was kept secret for long ages but has now been disclosed … to bring about the obedience of faith … (vv. 25, 26).

Over the Advent weeks, we prepare to celebrate the incarnation and nativity of God become man; to welcome Christ into his world in Spirit. The church sings “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord” (Sanctus); and on the eve of Christmas our song unfolds with the church’s “O antiphons”: “O come, Emmanuel; O come, Thou Wisdom from on high; O come, Thou Lord of might; O come, Thou Branch of Jesse’s tree; O come, Thou Key of David; O come, Thou Dayspring from on high; O come, Desire of nations.”

The “mystery kept secret for long ages” never ceases to surprise and give pause in recognizing the Child who is Lord of powers and might, come to bear sin’s poverty in Mary’s fragile Mary’s flesh. This is a “mystery”, a Child standing against sin and Satan.

It is never a good or safe to get out in front of God’s word, exposing one to conflict with God’s will. This was the situation with David and the Nathan. David was God’s vehicle in bringing about his promises for Israel. God had given David victory upon victory in the Land, finally conquering the Jebusite stronghold, making Jerusalem, “City of David”.

David built a palace for rest after his years of warfare; still the incongruity disturbed: David, servant of the Lord, resided in splendor; while the Ark of the God of heaven and earth dwelt with men in a tent, hardly the caliber of Moses’ wilderness tabernacle (2 Sam. 6:17).

David searched his heart and thought to construct a “proper” abode for God, that would exceed, in grandeur, all the temples of surrounding gods. David’s idea seemed well-conceived; yet he did not go half-cocked.

First, he consulted the purveyor of God’s word. Nathan considered David’s reasons and concurred with his impulse, “Go, and do all that is in your heart, for the LORD is with you” (7:3). David lead from his heart apart from prayer; Nathan without consulting Scripture or prayer considered only the apparent piety of David’s desire.

So, what was the problem; the same problem that has plagued the church from Adam and the woman to the present, the original sin of religious enthusiasm, or as Luther calls it, “fanaticism”.

Satan taped the woman’s heart exploiting by a false word about the forbidden fruit, “So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate, and gave some to her husband …” (Gen. 3:6).

Independent of God’s word man’s heart is the least reliable informant of God’s will (Ps. 51:5, 6). He speaks in the context of sola Scriptura and Christian freedom becomes oriented in petitionary and eucharistic prayer; enthusiasm, on the other hand, is heart generated revelation divorced from Word and promise.

To assume, because intentions “feel” good by human light, that we rightly discern God’s will apart from Christ who is word and light of God, is sin. It is childish that Christians inquire: WWJD; unless of course, the answer is: that for love’s sake, we die to self and live to God, which is to say, “we come to Baptism for the Spirit, who is the Voice of Christ”.

Here we observe that pastoral advice (whether Adam to the woman or Nathan to David) does not obviate peril. As Adam’s approval of the woman’s desire for forbidden fruit; so, Nathan approving David’s heart for God’s house was greater in arrogating the mystery (2 Sam. 7:21) of God dwelling with men.

Nathan assumed he need look no farther than David at peace, misdirecting the prophet to a false word, “Go, do all that is in your heart, for the LORD is with you” (2 Sam. 7:3). God intervened, tapping the breaks on temple-talk for the time being, and issuing a corrective.

Before constructing a temple in the Land, Israel would understand that human construction was but prophetic of an eternal dwelling, “not made with hands” (2 Cor. 5:1), God’s enfleshed Wisdom “in the Beginning” (Jn. 1:1).

Yet perhaps David and Nathan, forced God’s hand. By cryptic promise, God revealed to David something of the long-hidden Mystery: “I will give you rest [eternal] from all your enemies [Satanic powers and authorities]. Moreover… the LORD will [construct for] you a house … I will raise up [resurrect] your offspring [in Christ] … who shall come from your body [by Mary] … He shall build a house for my name, and I will establish the throne [his Cross] of his rule forever” (2 Sam. 7:11-13).

In Advent we stand at the precipice of the Nativity, preaching Jesus according to the mystery and revelation fully disclosed, “Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a Son, and they shall call his name Immanuel” (Mt. 1:23).

We have beheld Jesus’ triumphal entry into the City of David, rejected for kingship at the cross; beheld John preparing for a new Baptism in the HS for Resurrection faith; beheld the herald of a new House, Jesus’ sacrificial body. And today, the swell of Mary’s womb, God’s construction site of his eternal House promised to David.

By the HS’s overshadow of Mary, her flesh became the stuff of the new creation. She, for a time, was both dwelling and conveyance for fabricating God’s new Man to be his end-time Temple, the child Mary would name, “Jesus”.

On Jesus’ conception, the HS’s work was done in secret; but conception and life always out; pregnancy cannot be long hidden. As Mary’s belly expanded; so, we too, nourished in the church’s womb, advance in the mysteries and knowledge of God in Christ (Jn. 17:3).

In pregnancy, Mary is type of the NT church responding to God’s word, not fanatically; but attentively hearing his word, saying, “Behold, I am the servant of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word” (Luke 1:38). Amen.