In the readings for this Sunday, Dec. 24, there is a strong theme of “a home for God.” First King David wants to build one for the Ark of the Covenant, but is told “no.” In the second reading, Paul talks of God’s home in the Scriptures and the promises that God made to us, and the Gospel is the story of the home that Jesus made in Mary’s womb, and then on earth. By making his home with us, God fulfilled all of his promises to us.
by Jen Schlameuss-Perry
The readings for this Sunday, Dec. 24, prepare us for what we celebrate later in the evening, or the next morning —that God pitched his tent and dwelt among us. The Scriptures offer us a view of God’s unfolding promise to come and save his people — from the promise made to King David that the Messiah would come from his line, to the prophets and wisdom literature reassuring God’s people that God was coming and to hold tight, to Mary and Elizabeth experiencing God’s coming to them specially in the babies that they would bear — the promise of fruitfulness to Elizabeth in her old age, and the promise of salvation for all people through Mary. Each carried God’s promise more fully to the present moment, and each of us are invited to be Temple’s of God’s presence in our lives.
2 Samuel 7:1-5, 8B-12, 14A, 16
“Here I am living in a house of cedar, while the ark of God dwells in a tent!”
For ever I will sing the goodness of the Lord.
…To the only wise God, through Jesus Christ be glory forever and ever.
“Behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall name him Jesus.”
You can read the full text of this Sunday’s readings here:
This weekend we celebrate both the fourth Sunday of Advent and Christmas! It’s a somewhat unusual occurrence; one that happens only once every several years. For the sake of this reflection, I’ll focus on the readings for the fourth Sunday, as they are appropriate for both celebrations. Our first reading from the second book of Samuel recalls King David’s personal struggle about how to honor God after being made king of Israel. He thinks he should build a temple for God’s Spirit to dwell in — God tells him no. Rather than David making a home for God, God promises to make an eternal home for David. And, God also promises that the Messiah will be coming at a later date, and will be a member of his family. Through that King, David’s “kingdom shall endure forever before me; your throne shall stand firm forever.” That king is Jesus.
The second reading from Paul’s letter to the Romans, is pure praise of God’s fulfillment of the promise we heard in the first reading. Is it a run on sentence? Yes. Paul does that a lot. But, he’s trying to pack in as much acknowledgement of the gift that Jesus is to us as he can in that one statement.
The Gospel is a story that we’re all familiar with — the Angel Gabriel approaches Mary to tell her that God will be fulfilling his promise to David by making her a temple — she will house God for nine months, and bring about the Messiah who will make the earth his home, and whose reign will never die. The Angel Gabriel gives Mary double good news; her cousin, Elizabeth, who was rather elderly and, up till now, unable to have children, is already pregnant. Two amazing answers to prayer, two events that are “impossible” to us; miracles gifted to two lowly women that would change the world. This weekend we celebrate the fact that God keeps God’s promises, and that nothing is impossible for God. We celebrate God’s saving power — a power that lives in each one of us who are also heirs to God’s throne. God chooses to make his home with us; and we can each make that home whatever we choose.
If you could build a house for God, what would it look like? What would you put in it?
How do you see God keeping God’s promises in your life? What are some “impossible” things that you have witnessed or experienced in your life?
Who are the angels or prophets that speak reminders of God’s love to you? What gifts has God given you?
Bonus Question for all three groups:
God seems to be really focused on shepherds .. .King David was a shepherd when he was a kid, God the Father refers to himself as a shepherd, Jesus is the Good Shepherd, and in Luke’s Gospel (which is cycle C, so next year), the first people to show up at Jesus’ creche. Read the first reading again, and answer the question, “Why does God focus so much on shepherds when talking about our relationship with him?”
A little lectio
The ancient practice of prayerfully reflecting on bits of Scripture is known as lectio divina. Want to try it out with your family? Head over to Lectio Divina for Kids to find out how to adapt this prayer practice for your kids.
A little Bible study
Want to do a little Bible study with your kids? Here are some tips:
- During Ordinary Time, the Church pairs the Old Testament and New Testament readings in a way that each sheds light on the other. Ask your kids to look for the common theme connecting the two readings. (Sometimes it’s obvious, sometimes it is subtle.) How does the “dialogue” between the readings help you understand them better?
- Get a New American Bible, Revised Edition, and take a look at the footnotes for these readings. How do they change your understanding of what is going on?
- Take a look at the context for the readings—what happens before, or after?
- Read the NABRE’s introduction to the book of the Bible that the readings are taken from. How does that help you understand the readings?
- If you don’t have a copy of the NABRE at home, you can view it online at the USCCB website at the Daily Readings web page. (The link will take you to today’s reading; click forward or backward on the dates to get to Sunday’s readings.)
For even more resources for breaking open this Sunday’s readings, head over to The Sunday Website.
The image for Breaking Open the Word at Home is taken from a 17th century illuminated manuscript by an anonymous (but very talented) artist. The text is from the beginning of the Book of Sirach, chapter 1, verses 1-12, which begins: “All wisdom is from the Lord and remains with him forever.”