This season, don’t forget the Lord’s gift!

Listen to mp3 file
4th Sunday of Advent, Year B: Dec. 18, 2011
2 Sam 7:1-5, 8-12, 14, 16; Ps 89; Rom 16:25-27; Luke 1:26-38

How has the season been going for you? Crazy? Full of work? Maybe I should ask: How are you doing on all your Christmas tasks? Almost done? Still making progress? All that shopping, decorating, wrapping, baking, mailing? All those parties and pageants to go to, trips to make, cards to sign? It’s a lot of work, this Christmas season, as most Americans currently observe it—especially for adults. A lot of work to make it a “magical” experience for children; a lot of work to demonstrate to others that you love and appreciate them.

But have you forgotten something? That’s what you ask yourself late at night, right, when you’re trying to go to sleep—lying there in bed, wondering, “Who have I forgotten? O Lord, who have I forgotten?”

Maybe that’s your answer: the Lord! Have you forgotten the Lord’s gift in this Christmas season? Argh! Well, let’s see. We all know those stewardship homilies, right? Time, talent, treasure. The Lord’s gift! What am I going to give the Lord this Christmas? What does he want?

And that puts us in a situation similar to that of King David in our first reading today. For we read that, when he was settled in his palace, and the Lord had given him rest from his enemies on every side—after all those years of fighting—he said, “Here I am living in a house of cedar, while the ark of God dwells in a tent!” The ark, we remember, is that great gold box that contained the stone tablets of the law, Aaron’s staff, and a jar of manna—and that was a special focal point of the Lord’s presence and power, and therefore was something to be treated with great reverence as the People of Israel worshiped him. What was David going to do for the Lord? He was going to build a proper temple.

A great stewardship response, right? Time, talent, treasure… temple! Noble, generous, reverent. And the Lord said to David: “No thank you.”

What? The Lord turned down the gift that David wanted to give? But the temple was a good gift! And, several centuries later, through the prophet Haggai (1:1-11), he would command the people to rebuild the temple that had been destroyed. It was a good gift. But it was not what he wanted from David right then. And so he says, “Should you build me a house to dwell in? No, but I will build you a house.” And so the Lord’s gift turns out to be, not a gift that David is supposed to give to the Lord, but a gift that he is to receive from him.

And what a gift it is. For the Lord is going to build David a house: he is going to establish a dynasty that will never end. “Your house and your kingdom shall endure forever before me; your throne shall stand firm forever.” What a great gift! And, indeed, his descendants ruled over Israel and then Judah for about 400 years. But it turned out that the Lord had something even greater up his sleeve. For, in the fullness of time, the Second Person of the Trinity, God the Son, would take on human nature and become incarnate from one of David’s descendants—and so Jesus Christ would be born, and his kingdom will have no end. What an incredible gift—the Lord’s gift to David!

But would David accept that gift? Well, of course, why wouldn’t he? But we all know there are consequences from accepting gifts. If David accepts the Lord’s gift, then he’s not in charge.

  • He can’t say to the Lord, “Look what I did for you; you owe me.”
  • He can’t say to others, “Look at this great temple that I built!”
  • He has to step out of his doing, his accomplishing, his achieving, and just—receive.

What an odd position for David to be in. What an odd position for any of us to be in, during this season of shopping, wrapping, baking, attending, mailing—to be in the position of receiving the Lord’s gift.

What does the Lord want to give you this Advent and this Christmas? To David, he gave a house, a dynasty, that would include the Son of God and would last forever. To Mary, as we heard in the Gospel, it was the unfathomable gift of becoming the Mother of God. Those were his gifts to them. What will it be to you?

We remember that, in one of the Virgin Mary’s appearances to St. Margaret Mary Alacoque—having to do with the Miraculous Medal—she held the world in her hands, and she had many rings on all her fingers, and beams of light were shining out of most of those rings—but not all of them. Some of those rings were dark. And she said that those rings represented the graces that were ready to be given to people—but no one had asked for them.

What gift does the Lord want to give you this season, if you will ask for it; if you will make time to receive it?

  • Will it be the gift of inner peace?
  • Will it be the gift of knowing yourself specially loved and chosen by him?
  • Will it be forgiveness? Will it be freedom from some nagging sin?
  • Will it be strength—to love your family, or to carry some burden?
  • Will it be solace, after some loss?

What will the Lord’s gift be to you? Will you stop and open your hands to receive it?

Just yesterday, I received a gift from the Lord. The last couple days I had been very angry. And there was reason—but the emotional reaction went far beyond that reason, and I knew it. But I couldn’t shake it. Now, I also knew that I needed to go to confession. It had been a month since I last went, and I try to go every week or two. And as I examined my conscience, and I hit upon one particular little sin—not a big sin, and not at all related to my anger—as soon as I identified it and knew that I would confess it—snap, the anger was gone.

Some of you need to receive that gift, or others, that can come to you from confession. Has it been more than a month since your last confession? I’ll be hearing confessions after Mass today, at 11:30. And this afternoon, several visiting priests will be here for our penance service at 2:00, right here. Will you go and receive what the Lord wants to give you there?

And will you make time for prayer? Will you make time to step away from all the busyness, all the lists, all the activity—to spend some beautiful quiet time alone with the Lord? Remember that St. John of the Cross wrote that “if anyone is seeking God, the Beloved is seeking that person much more.” (The Living Flame of Love, 3.28) In this beautiful season, the Lord is waiting for you to spend time with him: to open your hearts to each other, to speak and to listen, to sit and commune. Will you make the time to step away and receive the Lord’s gift?

Mary said to the angel, “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord. May it be done to me according to your word.” May it be so with us. Come, Lord Jesus.

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