Sermon Commentary for Sunday, December 24, 2023
2 Samuel 7:1-11, 16 Commentary
Comments, Observations and Questions:
Verse 16 is a glorious refrain, especially in close anticipation of Christmas Eve worship (likely less than 12 hours away). “Your house and your kingdom will endure forever before me; your throne will be established forever.” The preacher might well add, “If you want to hear more, I’ll see you back here tonight!”
Turning from Our To Do Lists to God’s.
One imagines David taking a break from a very busy season of life — he has been crowned and installed as Israel’s King. The Kingdom is secure from external threats. He has overseen and completed the building of his palace. Now there is one last thing he must do and it does seem like an important task: he will build a temple for God. No longer living in a tent, David wants to give God all the honor and worship that is due.
So it came as a surprise to Nathan, who at first gives the green light, and then to David (who receives the message from Nathan) that David’s to do list doesn’t match God’s. God doesn’t want a house — at least not right now. God has other plans for that, which he references in verses 12-13, just beyond the reach of the lectionary limits. But what God does wants a people. God wants a Kingdom that will never end. God wants to assure David that, just as God has cared for him all along (v. 8-11), God will care for the whole world through David’s ancestor.
As David turns from his to-do list to God’s promised care and provision in this text, it is a good reminder for those in the pew who are likely feeling the last minute crunch of it all that if God can take building a temple off David’s to do list…if God can bless David with the promise of a Messiah and a forever Kingdom…maybe you don’t need to bake that last batch of cookies. Maybe you can leave aside some extra tasks to remain present to this promise of a Messiah and a forever Kingdom as well.
Turning from Our Strength to God’s
In the section of text that is omitted from the lectionary reading, God deepens his promise to David. One might imagine the backdrop as though David had come to God with a gift and God’s response was … less than generous. “I don’t need that. Someone else will give me that gift later.” So in a gracious turn, God reminds David who the real gift-giver is.
God gives David a name.
God gives David a place.
God gives David rest.
Finally, in verse 11, the roles are perfectly reversed. Rather that David building a house for God, God will assure a house (a legacy, dynastic reign) to David. This legacy will lead to a son, God promises in verses 14-16. Though there will be ups and downs, blessings, punishments, along the way, According to Walter Brueggemann, “David, David’s son, and David’s line can never lose Yahweh’s loyalty.”
God’s work in David’s life and through his descendants demonstrates — in this very passage of Scripture — a shift from God’s presence with the people to God’s presence with the people through this lineage. From now on, God’s people know that the coming Messiah will be a King, will be born to reign, just like his father, David. In all of this, again from Brueggemann, “David is given no credit and assign no merit in this recital. David’s preeminence and power are all Yahweh’s doing. David is the creation of Yahweh’s powerful, relentless graciousness.”
Turning from Our Politics to God’s
By weaving the Messiah into the lineage of a King, God is making a particular sort of promise. This is not a disembodied, spiritual reality … well, it isn’t only a spiritual reality. This can be lost in the “magic” and the good feelings of Christmas, candlelight and even some of our beloved carols. The sweet baby in a manger is born to rule, to reign, to fulfill his mother’s revolutionary anthem disguised in a lullaby:
“He has shown strength with his arm;
He has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts.
He has brought down the powerful from their thrones,
and lifted up the lowly;
He has filled the hungry with good things,
and sent the rich away empty.
He has helped his servant Israel, in remembrance of his mercy,
according to the promise he made to our ancestors…”
Again, from Brueggemann, “The shapers of these texts spoke and believed as if God had to do directly with issues of power and justice, politics and economics. The text keeps our faith close to the decisive human realities.”
Somewhere Between No Crib for a Bed and Home for the Holidays
At this time of year, our thoughts naturally turn toward home. For many, these are the happy childhood memories of Christmas morning, the favorite meals and even more favorite baked goods of the holiday season. I remember how, as an adult far from family around Christmastime, I would get weepy when “I’ll be home for Christmas” played on the loudspeakers at the mall. Of course not all of us have happy memories banked from childhood. Or perhaps our lives are a mixture of joy and sadness, both heightened during the holidays.
Loneliness, perhaps a metaphorical if not a literal homelessness, is a deep challenge and need in our congregations during the holiday season. With this need in mind, we turn to the homelessness of God in this and other texts. Here David offers to build a home for God, more permanent than the traveling tabernacle. One day God will have such a home but at this time, in conversation with David, he is not concerned for a home. He will continue to have his dwelling with the people. In this case, promising his presence through David’s lineage and a son, a Savior. A babe with “no crib for a bed.” A child who grew to a man who once said, “foxes have dens and birds have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head.” But this man also took time, when he was dying, to make home and family for his mother and his beloved disciple. “Behold your mother. Behold your son.”
This need—as well as the God who well knows it, who even entered into it—deserves some attention this holiday season, perhaps in the sermon, perhaps in the morning prayer but, especially, in the way the church rallies to be family for one another and, especially, for the lonely this Christmas.
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