Advent 4 (20th December 2020): David
Rev'd Lizzie Kesteven
2 Samuel 7
It was still in the process of pondering this sermon, when the rules around Christmas were changed yesterday afternoon. Now I’m not one to normally be pessimistic, or negative – but I felt a little crushed. We had spent the afternoon welcoming people to the stable at All Saints. We have put up lights and outdoor cribs with prayer chains at St Marys. We have collected presents for children to be distributed and raised money for charities via raffles. As I wondered down Grove Road yesterday seeing people look at the different windows, there seemed to be a bounce and essence of joy – a Christmas turning - a sign of hopefulness in peoples steps.
Within hours it all suddenly felt even more confusing, and frustrating than ever. People were moved Tiers, with little or no notice. New tiers were created and everyone was fumbling around trying to work out not just how they felt but what they might need to do differently if anything. And that sense of feeling helpless, out of control, unable to plan and therefore know what might be happening next week or even tomorrow suddenly bringing a higher degree of anxiety to the table. I think I’m a pretty chilled out person, but I find myself being more edgy than normal.
The story of God that we find in the Bible gives us though assurance. Assurance that we are not alone as a people to know times which can bring change and unsettledness.
I was really taken by the Old Testament reading today. Surprising really as I don’t often dwell on it. But the story we have of King David and his prophet Nathan today spoke to me about the God who chooses a different sort of security to the one perhaps that David is keen on. David has been on a journey, a journey which has taken him from a field as a shepherd boy, to the slaying of giants, to the defeat of a king. He has been taken into battle, and finally here in the Second book of Samuel – we see David starting to settle down. He is assured enough that his kingdom has been established. His house has been built. And so now he looks around and decides that God should also settle down. And in trying to honour God, the God who has walked with David all this way, on this difficult and treacherous journey, David wants to build God a house. A place. A home.
God suggests that is not how God wants to build.
God does want a house. God does want to settle. God does want to bring security and assurance, but it is not the same sort of house that David is thinking of.
So God promises David that he will build him a house, but it will be a house rooted in people, not in place or time.
And that is where we are today. Because the story of the bible, tells our story. The story of David tells us our story. Not because we are in Israel or Judea. But because we are people, and God choses to travel with us, and in us. And it is in that, that the assurance that people have lived with insecurity and uncertainty, and survived, that we find hope.
Mary is the shining example of that. Today, we light our last candle of Advent, a candle that points to the final person before Jesus. We get to take a closer look at Mary.
She also has another name –Theotokos – a posh name perhaps – but what it means is God Bearer. I want to think a little about that. What does it mean to be a God bearer?
For Mary – that was a very literal thing – she was to be the mother of God. She was to “bear” him into this world. Her flesh would be his flesh. She carried him in herself, and then carried him as a baby, a child and finally as an adult. The image of Mary as the God bearer is three fold. First the image of a heavily pregnant young girl. Secondly, as many pictures show – of a young mother with a small child. But finally also, she is God Bearer, as the mother who holds her adult son in her arms as his body is taken form the cross. She is the God bearer in all three ways. She holds God.
And we are also invited to hold God. Because God chose not to build his house and settle in a particular place, or be confined to a particular people, or a particular time. God chose to build the house, by being with and in the people. And it could only be God that could do that in a way that was able to defy time and space. To both be part of earth and heaven simultaneously. Mary ponders the question – how is this possible – and the angel answers – because “nothing will be impossible for God”.
Every single one of us carries God in us. Everyone of us is a God bearer. That feels both magnificent and also deeply responsible all at the same time. Perhaps that is how Mary felt, perhaps that was why the angel said “Do not be afraid.”
We live in uncertain times. Changing times. Anxious and worrying times. Yet the Christian story, born from and nursed by our Jewish story, brings to the picture the hope and reassurance that we are not alone in this. That others have been there also. The young shepherd boy David, the most unexpected of leaders and kings, comes to know and trust God. That same God who covenants with David, brings good news to Marys door – even if at the time it didn’t look like that. Her response of trust led to our God making his home in us. Not to be confined to time or space. But just as relevant to us today here in Fishponds, as it was then. God bearers for the world. May we make our way towards the crib in these coming days, as Mary and Joseph did. With the same sense of uncertainty as to what might be. But in hope and assurance that God was with us all the way.