Sunday, December 21, 2014

Just Sit There

Readings for Sunday, December 21/ 4th Sunday of Advent:
2 Samuel 7:1-5, 8-12, 14, 16
Psalm 89:2-5, 27-29
Romans 16:25-27
Luke 1:26-38

The first time I remember holding a baby was when I was 12 years old. Being the baby of the family, both among my siblings and my cousins, there weren’t many little ones around for me to have dealt with, so when my sister was due to have a baby girl, I had to start learning how to handle little ones. The day my niece was born we all went to the hospital and everyone got a chance to hold the little girl. When it was my chance, my mom (knowing I was nervous about holding her) told me to sit down in the chair. So I hopped in, got settled, got my arms in place to cradle a baby, and then I sat there. They brought her over and placed her in my arms and I sat there marveling at the little person in my arms. After a few moments of my nervously holding her, they took her back and passed her to the next person. This story came to mind because this weekend we are invited to stop doing so much and simply prepare to receive a little child.

The past few weeks have been all about preparing for Christmas. We’ve all been to a bunch of parties and gatherings, we’ve been working on preparing the churches, preparing for liturgies, decorating our own homes, and probably a little bit of shopping too. And this is in addition to the spiritual movements encouraged by this season – that of being watchful, of repenting and trying to turn away from our sins, and of being a people constantly seeking the face of God in prayer, thanksgiving, and rejoicing. But this weekend the readings make a dramatic turn from all of that doing to an attitude of receptivity because as Psalm 127 puts it, “Unless the Lord builds the house, in vain do the builders labor. Unless the Lord watch over the city, in vain do the watchmen keep vigil.” We can do all sorts of things and prepare in so many ways, but it is ultimately the work of God that makes it all fruitful.

This is the lesson that God seeks to teach King David in our first reading today from Second Samuel. David notices that he lives in a nice house and the dwelling place of God is basically a tent out in the yard and so he decides to make a temple for the Lord. In response the Lord gives His own plan and while we can hear the things that God has done or will do, what strikes me is just how many time God speaks in the first person ‘I’. “I took you from the pasture… I have been with you… I have destroyed your enemies…I will make you famous… I will fix a place for my people… I will plant them… I appointed judges… I will give you rest… I will raise up your heir… I will make his kingdom firm… I will be a father to him.” Eleven times the Lord drives the point home that it is His work that makes things happen. We have to do our share, but ultimately it is the Lord that makes these things happen.

He does a similar thing and gives us a perfect model to follow the account of the Annunciation we just heard. Mary receives the good news that she is to bear the savior of mankind. The first thought in my mind would be “Okay, what do I have to do?” But Mary’s doesn’t have to do anything. It is the all the work of God as she hears “the Holy Spirit will come upon you and the power of the most high will overshadow you.” She doesn’t have to do anything other than say ‘yes’ - “May it be done to me.” And the same goes for us. We’ve done much in the way of preparation for Christmas. Now it’s time to rest and the let the Lord move.

Since school is out now, I figured I’d make up for the lack of homework and give some here at church. I’m inviting each of you to make a little time before Christmas and simply sit before a nativity scene. You don’t have to do anything. You don’t have to say anything. Just sit in front of the scene, ready for the coming of a little baby to you.

Come, Lord Jesus.

Come, O Come, Emmanuel.