Nothing is impossible: Sunday Readings Advent 4 (Y-not question the Sunday Readings)
Fourth Sunday of Advent B
December 18, 2011
Reading I: 2 Samuel 7:1-5, 8b-12, 14a, 16
Responsorial Psalm: 89:2-3, 4-5, 27, 29
Reading II: Romans 16:25-27
Gospel: Luke 1:26-38
First Reading from 2 Samuel 7
When King David was settled in his palace,
and the Lord had given him rest from his enemies on every side,
he said to Nathan the prophet,
"Here I am living in a house of cedar,
while the ark of God dwells in a tent!"
Nathan answered the king,
"Go, do whatever you have in mind,
for the Lord is with you."
But that night the Lord spoke to Nathan and said:
"Go, tell my servant David, 'Thus says the Lord:
Should you build me a house to dwell in?'
"'It was I who took you from the pasture
and from the care of the flock
to be commander of my people Israel.
I have been with you wherever you went,
and I have destroyed all your enemies before you.
And I will make you famous like the great ones of the earth.
I will fix a place for my people Israel;
I will plant them so that they may dwell in their place
without further disturbance.
Neither shall the wicked continue to afflict them as they did of old,
since the time I first appointed judges over my people Israel.
I will give you rest from all your enemies.
The Lord also reveals to you
that he will establish a house for you.
And when your time comes and you rest with your ancestors,
I will raise up your heir after you, sprung from your loins,
and I will make his kingdom firm.
I will be a father to him,
and he shall be a son to me.
Your house and your kingdom shall endure forever before me;
your throne shall stand firm forever."
Gospel Reading from Luke Ch 1:
The angel Gabriel was sent from God
to a town of Galilee called Nazareth,
to a virgin betrothed to a man named Joseph,
of the house of David,
and the virgin's name was Mary.
And coming to her, he said,
"Hail, full of grace! The Lord is with you."
But she was greatly troubled at what was said
and pondered what sort of greeting this might be.
Then the angel said to her,
"Do not be afraid, Mary,
for you have found favor with God.
"Behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son,
and you shall name him Jesus.
He will be great and will be called Son of the Most High,
and the Lord God will give him the throne of David his father,
and he will rule over the house of Jacob forever,
and of his kingdom there will be no end."
But Mary said to the angel,
"How can this be,
since I have no relations with a man?"
And the angel said to her in reply,
"The Holy Spirit will come upon you,
and the power of the Most High will overshadow you.
Therefore the child to be born
will be called holy, the Son of God.
And behold, Elizabeth, your relative,
has also conceived a son in her old age,
and this is the sixth month for her who was called barren;
for nothing will be impossible for God."
Mary said, "Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord.
May it be done to me according to your word."
Then the angel departed from her.
* * *
For the next three weeks in celebrating the mystery of Christmas I am going to immerse myself in its mythology. I will step outside the realms of dogma, biology, historical truth and the like, and live instead in a world of symbol and poetry, a fantastic world – a world of realities beyond the reach of formulated faith or experimental sciences.
In a way, I could illustrate what I am about by comparison with something almost its opposite. I could, if I were so inclined, spend the next three weeks engrossed in the cosmos through images from the Hubble telescope. The universe, it turns out, is not what it seems. The stars at night do not travel across the dome of sky above, weaving mystic patterns through astrological time. Through our great telescopes we can “see” new images of vast clouds swirling through space, of new stars exploding into life even as galaxies in their millions are sucked into black holes to be annihilated. After three weeks I could go back to work in the new year, a little more familiar with other dimensions, but comfortably at home again in my everyday 'reality'.
While I am living in this world of mythology I will not shut down my reasoning mind. Rather I will work it hard, following threads connecting primordial themes and everlasting values. We can only trace a few threads in the time it takes to read a page or two. To work!
Mark begins his proclamation of Jesus the Christ in a matter of fact way. John appears in the wilderness, and soon Jesus comes along with folk from Nazareth to be baptised. The story unfolds from there. So we ask, why did the compilers of the other gospels, especially Matthew and Luke, feel it was useful to create stories about the origins of Jesus?
We will stay with Luke's account, and look at it as pure mythology. The impact of this mythological introduction is to declare that the gospel of Jesus of Nazareth is nothing less than the proclamation of a New Creation, a New Covenant, a New Exodus and a New Presence of God with his people.
The agent of this newness is the spirit, the same spirit that hovered over the waters to bring order out where chaos ruled. The bible situates that “In the beginning...”. Luke's gospel starts “At that time...” to suggest that underlying his mythological scenarios there is an historical actuality that occurred in our time.
“An angel was sent from God...” These messengers have power, and speak with God's authority. It is as if the Lord were speaking directly to you.
“You will bear a son...” you will be a mother. Eve was called the first mother, mother of all the living. She and the man represent those “first” parents who learned that living means choosing, and that every choice is for life and death. When you give your consent a new order begins.
“You shall name him Jesus” which means saviour, like Moses who saved the people who had been slaves in Egypt for generations. Moses obeyed the voice of YHW, the One who makes things happen.
“He will be great and will be called Son of the Most High, and the Lord God will give him the throne of David his father...” David, the shepherd boy who became the charismatic leader, the poet who danced before the Lord, the one who thought he should build a temple-house for the Lord, until he realised that the Lord does not dwell in buildings but in the hearts of women and men and their children, even in communities of like-minded people...
"The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will cover you with its shadow...” There is that hovering spirit again, that brings life out of the waters so that they no longer symbolise death but endless possibility. When Solomon, full of self-importance, eventually did build his temple to house the Ark of the Covenant, the Lord did not despise his efforts but came to dwell in it, and the whole sanctuary was filled with a cloud so that no man could enter in (cf. 2 Ch 7,14). As when Mary is filled with the spirit there will be no place for human claims to this one's greatness. This is entirely the God's work. “He will be called holy, Son of God.”
“...for nothing is impossible to God.” We are referred right back to Abraham whose wife Sarah was to have a child in spite of her old age (Gen 18,14). This is Abraham the father of all who believe/trust in the Lord. He followed an inspiration to leave home to find a new place for his own family. He is the one who thought he should make a sacrifice of his only son to the honour of his god, and learnt that the Lord is not pleased with parents who sacrifice their children!
“Be it done to me...” And Mary made the choice for motherhood with the heroism of every mother: whatever it takes, whatever it gives.
* * *
The New Creation begins with a young, inexperienced woman, puzzling over a destiny that was far and away beyond her normal expectations of what life might have in store.
He cam also stylle
to his moderes bowr
as dew in aprille,
þat fallyt on þe flour.
He came all so still
To his mother's bower
As dew in April
That falls on the flower
This verse comes from the late Mediaeval poem “I sing of a maiden”. I will post it as a separate entry.
* * *
Do I believe that such things happen, that young women conceive babies without intercourse, that old women become pregnant long after time? Wrong questions!
Do I believe that nothing is impossible with God? Yes.
Do I believe that every one of us is called to a destiny beyond our imagining? Yes.
that the power of the spirit fills with its shadow the one who says Yes?
that the Lord has done great things in me and still continues to do them?
that what may come from my trust and love will be holy, and may be said to be “of God”?
Yes to all.
Do I think that any of this is out of the ordinary? No.
Is it extraordinary, amazing, exciting and wonder-full? You bet it is!
Do I love Christmastide? Oh yes, like I love springtime, and new-born babies, and children fascinated with Santa Claus, bright paper wrappings, and contact with family and friends in our once a year celebration of all God's gifts.
Is it all myth? Of course it is, and it is poetry, and inspiration, and love - much like the things my lovely wife and I say to one another, and to our kids.
Is it practical? Well, it inspires me to make real efforts to be kind and generous and loving - the way I imagine "God" to be. Whadda y' reckon?
"A post is a free gift, and it will go where it pleases."'
- Nothing is impossible: Sunday Readings Advent 4 - Ynot, 2011-12-17, 11:45
- Nothing is impossible: Sunday Readings Advent 4 - Ian Lawther, 2011-12-17, 13:07
- Extraordinary - Jerome, 2011-12-17, 21:54
- Sorry, but I'm confused - CathyT, 2011-12-18, 05:40
- Sorry, but I'm confused - Francis, 2011-12-18, 09:17
- Quick note from Mocha & Lime - Ynot, 2011-12-18, 12:51
- Questions that can wait - TonySee, 2011-12-18, 15:24
- Sorry, but I'm confused - georgeh, 2011-12-18, 15:22
- That word, "mythology" - CathyT, 2011-12-19, 11:25
- That word, "midrash" - herbie, 2011-12-19, 12:14
- Nothing is impossible: Sunday Readings Advent 4 - Sue, 2011-12-19, 08:59
- Was the nativity story written by a woman? - Sue, 2011-12-20, 18:10