Scripture Reflection: The Good News of Advent - God is With You
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December 20th, 2020: Fourth Sunday of Advent
2 Samuel 7: 1-5, 8b-12,14a,16
Romans 16: 25-27
Luke 1: 26-38
Reflection from Rev. Richard P. Young
“God is with you.” That is a sentence that ties our Old Testament reading with our gospel passage today. It is a sentence that LGBTQ+ folks and our allies need to hear over and over again, as we strive to work for justice. It is a promise that our DignityUSA board of directors could use in times of their most difficult decision-making. “God is with you” is Advent Good News that can move us from fear to action.
This Sunday we hear the promise made to David of a royal and just rule that will have no end, because God would always be with it. We also have the story about the angel Gabriel announcing a life-changing mission for Mary. She was overwhelmed. “How can this be?” she asks. That question turns into “Let it be” as the assurance is given that “God is with you.”
David was feeling guilty about living in a magnificent house, while the Ark of God was in a tent. After all that God had done for David, he figured the least he could do was build something prominent for God. A grand house would be nice. But God says to David through the prophet, “You’re going to build me a house? I got news for you, kid. I’m going to make you a house. I don’t need some fancy palace. I’ll be with you, wherever you go. A tent’s just fine with me. But you will BE a house (meaning a family, a dynasty) that will last forever.” House: a play on words. But how was this “house” going to last forever, when some of David’s successors turned out to be huge disappointments and allowed the dynasty to fall into ruin, causing the people to wonder if God was with them or not?
Centuries later Mary encounters the angel and sees a huge, confusing, troubling decision to make. Let it be. “May it be done to me according to your word,” she says. And she crosses – in profound hope. She changes and would never be the same again. She gives birth, and Emmanuel, “God with us,” becomes real. The House of David continues. Flesh is put on the promise.
That assurance, “God is with you,” has always been the bottom line that makes hope possible, that makes obscure maidens take enormous leaps of faith into the unknown. They bravely say yes with no more guarantee than just “God is with you.” “Hail, Mary, full of grace, God is with you.” But “How can this be?” Never mind; God is with you. Alright, King David, do what you have in mind, because God is with you. Yes, but what about that stupid tent? Never mind; God is with you. Say yes, uncertain and fearful ones. God is with you! The truth is you don’t leap out into the terrifying unknown without some sense of divine accompaniment. Priest-poet John Shea wrote, “Lord…you are the tightening hope that someone has stretched a net beneath this high-wire act of ours.” With means that net is there.
Advent it a kind of celebration of the fact that amazing, life-changing missions can be taken on, knowing only half of what is necessary. The first half has always been firmly in place. It’s “The Already,” the Good News that God is with us. The second and often scary half is what is still to come. It is called “The Not Yet,” which is the fulfillment of “The Already.” We cross in hope from the first half to the second, knowing there’s a net beneath us.
Rev. Richard P. Young is a retired Catholic priest and mental health counselor. He co-chairs the Social Justice Committee of Dignity/Dayton’s Living Beatitudes Community and has worked with several Dignity chapters since the late 70s.
He once served for a term on the national board of DignityUSA and has attended all the national conventions/conferences since 1981. He is married to DignityUSA’s national secretary, Bob Butts.