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Homily for the Fourth Sunday of Advent (December 24, 2023)

By Father Kyle

What do I have to do? This is a question that we all ask ourselves during very busy times of the year, especially the time leading up to Christmas. We might have a to-do list for the week that contains all the different things that need done before the big day – go grocery shopping, finish Christmas shopping, bake cookies, clean the guest room for our children and grandchildren coming to stay with us, finish writing Christmas cards, shovel the driveway as many times as needed (which for us in northwestern Pennsylvania might be every hour or half-hour depending on the weather), wrap all the Christmas gifts to be put under the tree, make an appearance at a friend’s Christmas party, etc. This type of list, however, does not include the bigger stuff that might be weighing on us – taking care of an ailing loved one who is confined to the bed or the hospital, trying to hold things together between family members who are torn apart, trying not to go crazy on everyone at the office during another long, stressful week at work, preparing ourselves or our loved ones for a major surgery coming up, or trying to hold it together after the death of a spouse or other family member that happened at this time of year. It can often help having an organized list of the smaller things that need done, but even with a list, as I alluded to last week, Advent can be one of the most difficult times of the year for many people carrying heavy burdens, especially if they lose sight of the reason for the season.

            Even when things are going well for us, we sometimes have a tendency to believe that it’s all on us, that we have to take care of everything ourselves or else it will not get done. King David believed that he had to build a house for God, realizing the discrepancy between his own palace and the tent where the ark of the covenant was kept. David’s kingdom was at peace, and when he was settled in his palace, he wanted to do this for the Lord, probably from a desire to enhance divine worship and as a sign of love and devotion, but God stopped him from setting out on this project because David had apparently forgotten his place. What he wanted to do for God was a noble desire, but God reminded him of all that He had done for David along the way. First of all, God did not need a temple in which to dwell. The false gods and goddesses from other Ancient Near Eastern religions needed these structures to house them, but the one, true God, who had claimed Israel as His own special possession, was present everywhere; the whole universe could not contain Him. The temple that David’s son, Solomon, built would be a sign of this God’s presence in the midst of His chosen people and a place where they could draw close to Him in prayer and sacrifice.

Second, David was not the chief Architect for Israel; the Lord was. The Lord had taken David from the sheepfold and made him the commander of Israel, giving him victories over his enemies and making him the mighty warrior and ruler that he was. God set aside David’s ambition to build the Temple and reminded him that his place was to believe, obey, and receive. The Lord promises and gives, and so He promised David that He would build a house, a dynasty, for him and establish his throne forever, a promise we find fulfilled in Jesus Christ, the Messiah. This covenant with David was unconditional, meaning that it would remain even despite the infidelity and wickedness of some of David’s successors. No matter how terrible some of the Davidic kings would be, this covenant would be a pure gift from God that would never be taken back. God was taking care of David, not the other way around. It was almost as if God was saying to him, “Let me bless you, let me do this for you and for my people.”

We can hear these words being said to us whenever we look at the manger scene and ponder this great mystery of Christmas that we celebrate this evening and in the days and weeks to come, the day and the season when we celebrate the birthday of the Son of God, who would be given the throne of David his father and would rule over the house of Jacob forever in an everlasting kingdom. During this time of the year, when we are busy about many things, great and small, we are invited to know our own place in relation to God. He is the Giver, the One who promises and blesses us abundantly. We are the receivers of His divine goodness, the ones who believe in Him and obey Him. God has made a new and everlasting covenant with us in His Only Begotten Son, Jesus Christ, a covenant that is renewed every time the Sacrifice of the Mass is offered and celebrated. This covenant is His pure gift to us, just as that baby in the manger is His pure gift to us, one we did not merit or deserve. Certainly, He calls us to love Him and one another actively and generously, and the many things on our to-do lists need to get done. We must know, however, that we do not have to carry this load all on our own. Self-reliance and self-sufficiency are illusions, but they are often the strongest temptations we face in our often chaotic and messy lives. Advent has been a time for us to watch and wait for the fulfillment of God’s promises to us, and Christmas will be a time for us to humbly receive His Son, who is everything we could ever need or desire. Amidst our various tasks and burdens that we carry, may we allow God to take care of us, to bless us, to keep His promises to us, to give us the grace to know our place as His beloved children.

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