Unconfinable God: December 24, 2023

December 24, 2023

 Year B, Advent 4                       2 Samuel, 7:1-11, 17 & Luke 1:26-38, 46-55

                Being a prophet has got to be a horrible
job.  In our Old Testament reading, we
hear from the prophet Nathan for the first time.  It’s already clear that he has a rough road
ahead of him.  The new king, chosen by
mentioned to Nathan what seemed like
a reasonable idea—the ark of God needed a real home.  King David had this lovely house of cedar
(which was very opulent at the time) and the ark of God was sitting in a
tent.  I mean, that’s just
embarrassing.  Nathan affirmed the idea by
saying, “the Lord is with you.”  Don’t
forget, God had chosen King David. He had pulled him out of obscurity.  Why wouldn’t Nathan affirm his idea? 

that was a mistake. On the same day as that conversation with David, the Lord
came to Nathan and told him in no uncertain terms that he didn’t want a
temple.  The Lord never asked for a
temple.  He liked to move among the
people.  He didn’t want to be
confined.  But then God added later (and
this boggles my mind) that while he didn’t want King David to build him one,
perhaps the King’s unborn son would build him a temple after King David died.

had the rather unfortunate task of telling King David that God didn’t want
David building him a house.  Now you
might think, well that shouldn’t upset David too much.  It would have been a difficult task with a
high price tag.  Why undertake that kind
of project if God was happy with his tent? 
There might have been some self-interested reasons for King David’s building
project.  Building a temple was a sign of
great piety and also a way to gain political capital.  Building a fancy temple made the new king
appear powerful.  Not only that but the
temple guaranteed God’s presence.  And if
God was with them, then all things were possible.  The future was limitless.  But…that is not what God wanted.

must have been an uncomfortable conversation for Nathan to have with the with
the new king.  Fortunately, God provided
some good news that would hopefully soften the blow.  God said, don’t worry about making me a
house—“the Lord will make you a house. 
Your house and your kingdom shall be made forever before me; your throne
shall be established forever.”  Not only
does that display an incredible love for David and his future family, it also
shows that God’s house isn’t a place—it’s a family…it’s the people of

it’s almost Christmas…why is the priest talking about King David and Nathan
when she could be talking about the Angel Gabriel and the Magnificat? Why? Because
these stories are all connected.  King
David’s son built an incredible temple. 
It lasted for over 400 years before it was destroyed by the
Babylonians.  After the Babylonians, they
built another, less impressive temple, that was still in place when Jesus was
alive.  But that was not the home that
God chose. 

Gospel of Luke tells the story of God’s newest home.  This one wasn’t in the Davidic Dynasty
(although Joseph was part of the house of David), but this home was in the womb
of a young woman.  She didn’t come from
royalty.  She had no special status.  In fact, we know almost nothing of
Mary…except the most important thing, she was chosen by God. She was considered
highly favored—which can also be translated to full of grace.  God chose a young woman, a girl really, to be
the newest temple—the newest house of God. 

has been made of the fact that she was young, unwed, and someone who had little
money or status.  This choice should not surprise
us as it is totally characteristic of God. 
When God chose David to be king, he was a shepherd.  God chose him not only to be king, but to be
the head of the household of God.  God
has always refused to be confined by our expectations.  God defies our expectations. 

course Mary’s body was only the home of God for 9 months. After that, Jesus
found homes with all kinds of people.  He
worshipped in the temple—the official house of God.  He was a regular attendee of the temple.  But he spent most of his time wandering from
place to place.  In the Gospel of Matthew
Jesus said, “Foxes have holes, and birds of the
air have nests; but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head.”  This was not said as a lament.  It was in response to someone who wanted to
follow him.  He was saying that the
person was welcome to follow him, but there would be no permanent home. Jesus
would not be confined.

the fact that the God we read about in the Old Testament and Jesus refused to
be confined, it’s amazing how desperate we are to confine our God. Sometimes it’s
to a place, but more often, it’s to our expectations or narrow definitions.  Voltaire once said, “In the beginning God created man in His own image, and man has been trying to repay the favor ever since.”  To
some extent that’s a natural thing to do. 
Most people have limited imaginations and we assumes that others—even
the divine—think and work like us.

Fortunately, that’s not true. 
The person who did have an imagination was Mary.  In the Magnificat she proclaimed, “He has
shown the strength of his arm, he scattered the proud in their conceit. He has
cast down the mighty from their thrones, and has lifted up the lowly.  He has filled the hungry with good things and
the rich he has sent away empty.”  Actually,
for Mary, it wasn’t so much imagination, it was faith.  She had read the Holy Scriptures.  She knew that God was a God of justice and
mercy.  We heard it in our reading from Isaiah
last week.  But unlike so many others, she
had not relinquished hope.  That was what
made her different.  Many people knew the
character and love of God, but she understood what that meant for her and her

at this time of year, we focus on sweet baby Jesus in the manger.  We talk about the miracle, the angels and the
star.  All of those images are important.  But our readings for this morning reminds us
to look beyond those more sentimental images and remember that the God we worship
is a God who refuses to be confined and who wants to see beyond our limited
imaginations.  To dream like the prophets
and to read the glorious Magnificat, and wonder what it means for us today. We,
the people of God, are called to bring our unconfinable God beyond the church
walls, into all parts of our community and world—to be not just a light that
shines down on us in this holy day and night, but a light that shines on all,
that reaches all people