A Homily for the Fourth Sunday of Advent
Grace to you and peace from God our Heavenly Father and Christ Jesus our Lord, the King. His advent is close at hand. Amen.
After weeks of waiting, we’re almost there. The anticipation has been building for a while now. The tree is up – and depending on your family traditions, it has been for weeks. The plans have been made. Hopefully, there are only a few last-minute gifts or groceries to buy. All four candles are lit, and even those of us in the self-appointed “Advent Police” are getting antsy.
Can I listen to Christmas carols yet…maybe just one. And maybe I can just lift the box under the tree and try to guess what’s in it. Now hand me some egg nog.
Even the lectionary is pushing us closer and closer as today we read the Annunciation, Gabriel’s message to the Blessed Virgin Mary. As of today, the stage has been set: Mary and Joseph have been introduced, and we know they’re waiting on the birth of a miraculous child, a son to be named Jesus, who “will be called the Son of the Most High, and the Lord God will give to him the throne of his ancestor David. He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.”
It won’t be long now. The advent of our newborn King is close at hand.
And today, perhaps more so than any other in this season of waiting, it’s tempting to let it be Christmas already, to turn our attention away from Advent and dive into story of Christ’s nativity.
But we’re not there yet. We’re still waiting. It’s still Advent. And this season has a different focus. Let us not forget the overarching theme of this season of expectation. Even as we turn our attention to the family that will soon be in Bethlehem, something is still pointing us not to the past but the future.
Some thousand years earlier, Nathan spoke the word of the Lord to David: “Your house and your kingdom shall be made sure forever before me; your throne shall be established forever.” That was not merely a promise about Solomon and a long line of royal descendants. And when Gabriel assured Mary that her son would claim “the throne of his ancestor David,” that was not about a reestablished political kingdom, not about a righteous warrior who would wage war against the Roman army and their Herodian collaborators to re-establish the Davidic Kingdom for a few more centuries. God’s promise to David is not only about princely heirs and earthly monarchies. It’s not just about a line of rulers from Bethlehem or a new descendant born in the ancestral hometown.
Yes, we’ve been getting ready for the Lord to come – but not just to celebrate his first coming in Bethlehem. We’re also preparing for his second coming. Advent is about the Parousia, Christ’s return at the end of the age to fully establish the everlasting Kingdom of God.
What will this Kingdom look like? Who can imagine such a splendid reality? The very one who consented to bear the King into the world! Our Lady, the Mother of God, sang of this coming age, when God will look “with favor on the lowliness of his servant” and show “the strength of his arm” by scattering “the proud in the thoughts of their hearts:”
He has brought down the powerful from their thrones,
and lifted up the lowly;
He has filled the hungry with good things,
and sent the rich away empty.
Christ is coming, and he will usher in a new – no, not new – a restored creation, the cosmos as it was meant to be from before the beginning of time when the Triune God laid the foundations of the world.
This coming reality will turn our world upside down, like a geode, a rock cracked open to reveal the beauty of crystals underneath the surface. It will completely overwhelm us, and we, like the Mother of our Lord, sit in this time before, wondering, “How can this be…?”
Our world is going to be changed. And we, having adjusted to the fallen, sinful nature of this life, may very well be terrified of it. We who have benefited from sinful systems – who have unjustly benefitted from racism and white supremacy, who have enjoyed the spoils of wealth while others have gone hungry, who have placed our comfort over the concerns of future generations who will inhabit this planet – we will be in for an awakening. We have become so accustomed to these fallen ways, indeed have entered into service to them, and have come to depend on them so much that we are blind to them, even as they control this world. And when the Lord comes to unseat the powerful, to lift up the lowly, to feed the hungry and send the rich away empty, we will be confronted with a the horrible reality of what we have done and what we have failed to do.
But on that day, the heavenly hosts will meet us with these words: “Be not afraid.” For the Lord’s mercy endures “from generation to generation” as promised “to Abraham and his descendants forever.”
Take heart. A new world is coming: not one of death and wrath but one in which the oppressed and oppressor alike are set free from slavery to sin. We, who have tried to serve two masters, to place wealth, or whiteness, or nation above God and neighbor, we shall be set free for loving service in the Kingdom of God.
And on that day, may we all respond with the Blessed Virgin’s faithful words: “Let it be.”