Sunday, December 18, 2011

Unless the Lord builds the house

Today we read the great twist in the story of Advent, the great wrinkle as we have been preparing the way for the Lord. David wants to build God a house of cedar, and God comes back to him and says:

“Who are you to build me a house? I built you a house. Look around you at your palace, David: I built this for you when you had been living in the fields with your sheep.”

It is God who builds houses, it is God who chooses the place of his dwelling, not David. David thinks he can make a place for God’s dwelling, but all along God had been building one for David.

Moreover, God does not stop at building David’s palace that can be destroyed a couple generations later when the nation is divided, or a dozen generations later when the Babylonians destroy the city. God responds to David’s well-intended desire to build him a house by saying:

“Furthermore, not only have I already placed you in the very house in which you are living, but I will build you a house that will not fall. From your body, not your cedar, I will build your house, my house, that will never be destroyed.”

From David’s home in the fields, God built him a palace. From David’s loins, God built Solomon. From David’s son Solomon, God built a temple. From David’s children, God built a dynasty. From David’s daughter Mary, God built his Son.

And as we begin the fourth week of Advent, having spent three weeks responding (such as we have) to the call to prepare the way for the Lord, we realize that it is God who has been preparing places. God prepared the way for himself, not in a house of cedar, not even in a tent, but in a womb. God prepared the house for his dwelling within his people, within a woman, within me.

I take comfort in that, as I know my preparations for his coming this year have been no better than that of the people of Bethlehem, as I know I have no palace nor even a tent to give him, as I know my own sleep-deprived, mal-fed body has been too absorbed in exams to prepare a place for him to enter, as I know my own soul is not even a tent but a dirty stable: God has prepared a place for himself despite me and my weariness, without me and my ambitions, within me and my dirtiness.

Advent calls us to prepare, yet we are preparing for the one who has already built his home as he had already built David’s palace, as he has already entered Mary’s body, as he has already entered our own in the Eucharist.

And now, humbled by so subtle a builder, we can only wait.

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