A reading from the second book of Samuel (7:1-5.8-12.14.16)
Once David had settled into his house and the Lord had given him rest from all the enemies surrounding him, the king said to the prophet Nathan, 'Look, I am living in a house of cedar while the ark of God dwells in a tent.' Nathan said to the king, 'Go and do all that is in your mind, for the Lord is with you.'
But that very night the word of the Lord came to Nathan: 'Go and tell my servant David, "Thus the Lord speaks: Are you the man to build me a house to dwell in? I took you from the pasture, from following the sheep, to be leader of my people Israel; I have been with you on all your expeditions; I have cut off all your enemies before you. I will give you fame as great as the fame of the greatest on earth. I will provide a place for my people Israel; I will plant them there and they shall dwell in that place and never be disturbed again; nor shall the wicked continue to oppress them as they did, in the days when I appointed judges over my people Israel; I will give them rest from all their enemies. The Lord will make you great; the Lord will make you a House. Your House and your sovereignty will always stand secure before me and your throne be established for ever."'
A reading from the letter of Saint Paul to the Romans (16:25-27)
Glory to him who is able to give you the strength to live according to the Good News I preach, and in which I proclaim Jesus Christ, the revelation of a mystery kept secret for endless ages, but now so clear that it must be broadcast to pagans everywhere to bring them to the obedience of faith. This is only what scripture has predicted, and it is all part of the way the eternal God wants things to be. He alone is wisdom; give glory therefore to him through Jesus Christ forever and ever. Amen.
A reading from the holy Gospel according to Luke (1:26-38)
The angel Gabriel was sent by God to a town in Galilee called Nazareth, to a virgin betrothed to a man named Joseph, of the House of David; and the virgin's name was Mary.
He went in and said to her, 'Rejoice, so highly favoured! The Lord is with you.' She was deeply disturbed by these words and asked herself what this greeting could mean, but the angel said to her, 'Mary, do not be afraid; you have won God's favour. Listen! You are to conceive and bear a son, and you must name him Jesus. He will be great and will be called Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his ancestor David; he will rule over the House of Jacob for ever and his reign will have no end.'
Mary said to the angel, 'But how can this come about, since I am a virgin?' 'The Holy Spirit will come upon you' the angel answered 'and the power of the Most High will cover you with its shadow. And so the child will be holy and will be called Son of God. Know this too: your kinswoman Elizabeth has, in her old age, herself conceived a son, and she whom people called barren is now in her sixth month, for nothing is impossible to God'
'I am the handmaid of the Lord,' said Mary 'let what you have said be done to me.' And the angel left her
Sunday Reflection 4th Sunday of Advent (24.12.17)
Your Home As A Crib
Christmas Eve 2017 being a Sunday means there's no 4th week of Advent! Two adjoining 'Holydays of Obligation' create many logistical problems for both home and church schedules.
The Gospel for the 4th Sunday of Advent is from Luke and tells of the Annunciation. But it's this Sunday's first reading, from the 2nd Book of Samuel (7:1-5,8-12,14,16), telling of King David's attempt to build a house for the Lord that prompted this reflection. David's laudable concern was that the Ark of the Covenant, God's presence among his people, was housed in a tent while his palace was made of cedar.
David consulted the prophet Nathan who, at first, encouraged him to proceed. But God had other plans and Nathan was subsequently sent to update David - "Are you the one to build me a house to dwell in?" We know that it was God's will that David's son King Solomon would construct the Lord's Temple. David's task was to gather all the materials needed.
Christmas should be a period of construction or maybe reconstruction not of buildings but of relationships, particularly within families and religious communities at the parochial as well as institutional level. Christians have traditionally had a miniature Crib at home to mark the Birthday of their Redeemer.
A living Crib would be even better. Then it would be so different for visiting family and friends. They would experience being welcomed into the living Crib of your home. There would be no dressing up or allocation of roles. What would be evident, to all who visited over Christmas, would be your family's shared endeavour to respect, love and value one another. Were a visitor to comment, it would be sufficient to say "we jointly decided to be a 'living crib' as well as having the traditional miniature replica of a Bethlehem cave".
This tale may help you to visualise what is possible. There was once a monastery where the monks were so embittered towards one another that no new recruits came to join them and they were slowly dying out. The abbot was at his wits end trying to foster peace and forgiveness. One day, the abbot having been told of a wise and gracious hermit living some distance away, decided to consult him. The hermit listened to the abbot's endless tales of woe. When the abbot was finally exhausted, the hermit went to his table and began to write. After a short while the hermit folded the paper, sealed it in an envelope and gave to the abbot saying: "Please go back to your monastery and, when you next call your monks to an assembly, open the envelope and let each monk read for himself, in silence, what I have written. Please make no announcements or admit any other business. Close the assembly and let each monk return to his duties."
The abbot did as the hermit had asked. At the next assembly of the community he produced the hermit's envelope and explained that each was to read in silence what the hermit had written. The abbot opened the envelope and read what was written on the paper inside. He then passed the page to the monk next to him. In silence, each monk received and read the page which eventually came back to the abbot. The assembly was closed in silence and monastic life continued.
There was no visible sign of change but the few outsiders who came to the monastery commented among themselves how the atmosphere there began to change. More heard about the change and visited. Slowly and quietly the life of the monastery began to come alive again. Applicants, few at first, arrived and asked to join. The aged community was beginning to be rejuvenated.
One day, the local bishop, who had long since despaired of reconciling the quarrelsome monks, called. He too had heard how things had changed. He asked the abbot if he might read what the hermit had written and the abbot handed the page to the bishop who read:
"The Christ you seek already lives among you."
Each monk, after reading the hermit's words, had begun looking at his neighbour in a different light. The accumulative long term effect renewed the religious commitment of each and of the whole community. More than that, the people of the whole area around the monastery began to breath in the atmosphere which permeated from the monastery walls and peace was enjoyed.
May your home be a living Crib and not only over Christmas.