Sermon: Advent 4 Year B: Mary, God’s house

Icon of Mary with Jesus visible in the center

Advent 4 Year B

Mary, God’s House

2 Samuel 7:1-11, 16

Canticle 15 The Song of Mary

Luke 1:26-38

The collect

Purify our conscience, Almighty God, by your daily visitation, that your Son Jesus Christ, at his coming, may find in us a mansion prepared for himself; who lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

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9 months ago, Gabriel appeared to Mary and told her that she was going to have a baby and name him Jesus. I dunno about anybody else, but I think I would have been pretty freaked out if an angel showed up to me with a message like that. The most common thing that angels say in the bible is “Do not be afraid.” Because a message from God is a powerful and potentially scary thing. But Mary is not afraid. She is perplexed. She asks questions. And she responds with the classic line accepting the call of a prophet: “here I am, the servant of the Lord.” Mary is a prophet in the long tradition of prophets. Yes, there *were* women prophets. Mary was probably named for Moses’s prophet sister Miriam. A prophet in the bible is not necessarily a fortune-telling seer. A prophet is someone who delivers a message from God. 

Nathan was a prophet during the time of king David. In our reading from the book of Samuel today, King David has secured his reign in Israel. And so he endeavors to secure the presence of God in his kingdom by building God a house, a palace as splendid as his own. At first, Nathan, God’s prophet, approves of the plan. But God says “hold up a second, I didn’t ask for this. I’ve lived in a tent for generations. I didn’t ask for a house. I’ve been with you this whole time, wherever you’ve lived. When you’ve wandered with the sheep, I was there, and now that my people are building their houses here, I’m here too. And you know what, I’m making this house,* your* house eternal. No more worrying about enemies or having to wander around hoping that God is with you. Here is your house, forever.” 

That didn’t exactly work out as expected. David’s kingdom hardly survived a single generation. And then David’s house in Jerusalem was destroyed and the people of Israel were eventually scattered into exile. The scriptures are filled with story after story of enemies and empires attacking God’s people. Century after century, God’s people cry out for salvation. The Holy Land is again filled with fear and violence in our own century.

Have the people of God been abandoned? Where is their eternal house? Was Nathan’s prophetic message from God wrong? Where can salvation come from when there’s no safe house and God has abandoned the people he promised to save?

Nathan’s prophetic message from God was that David is not to build a house of cedar for God. Because God does not live in a cedar house. God lives wherever God’s people are. 

“Your house shall be made sure forever before me” God promises David. Centuries later, and 400 years after the last Biblical prophet spoke God’s message to the people of Israel, the angel Gabriel delivers a message. Gabriel delivered a message from God that Mary is going to bear a son and name him Jesus. And the prophet Mary responds: “Here I am. Let it be with me according to your word.” 

Mary was a prophet. Mary delivered a prophetic message in her song that we heard as our psalm today. Mary’s words echo the words of former prophets. “My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord,….the Almighty has done great things for me, and holy is his Name. He has mercy on those who fear him *

in every generation.” Mary’s prophetic words expound on the message she received from God through the angel Gabriel. She will bear a son and name him Jesus. 

We’ve obscured the meaning of the name Jesus through transliteration and multiple languages and centuries. The J in Jesus probably traces its origins to the Holy Name of God revealed to Moses. The name Jesus derives from a phrase meaning “God rescues or saves”. Jesus literally means “salvation”. Mary wasn’t just preparing to deliver a baby, she was preparing for deliverance from God. 

Mary’s prophetic song proclaims the coming deliverance of God’s people. “He has come to the help of his servant Israel, * for he has remembered his promise of mercy, The promise he made to our fathers, * to Abraham and his children for ever.” Was Nathan’s prophecy wrong? No. God remembered his promise to Abraham and his children. This promise was delivered in the words of the prophets through the centuries. And here we are, hearing Mary proclaim the same promises of God to a new generation. Mary was a prophet. She delivered a message from God in the words of her song. 

Mary was a prophet. She delivered a baby who was the word of God. Mary was a prophet and her womb was the incarnate God’s first house. Mary became a house for God. Her very body sheltered the Son of God. 

Jesus was not just a baby with an auspicious name. He is literally God incarnate. The divine word. The baby *was the message* from God: God is with us. Despite enemies and oppression. Despite violence and war and even death: God is with us. God’s house is here. The prophets were right: God’s house is established forever. God’s house is established forever in us. Wherever God’s people are: that is where God’s house is. 

The prophets weren’t wrong when they proclaimed God’s promises generation after generation. We aren’t wrong to proclaim those promises today. God has heard the cries of his people. God hears the cry of his people *now.* God does not ignore the suffering of his people. God enters into our world, our lives, and makes a home with us, in the midst of fear and oppression and suffering. Wherever God’s people are, that’s where God’s house is. In the cedar house of triumphant David, God is there. Among the exiles from David’s fallen kingdom, God is there. In the words spoken by the prophets, God is there. With the hostages and the homeless in the Holy Land now: God is there.  

The God who would not be contained by a splendid cedar house in David’s time is making his home here with us, as a human. God finds a home in us. David wanted to build God a house out of wood. But God made a home with us. God is with us. God makes his home with us. God’s house is here. God’s house is us. Amen

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