Homily preached by the Reverend Adam Yates
St. Paul’s on the Green, Norwalk, CT
The Fourth Sunday of Advent – December 18, 2011
We worship a restless God. The prophet Nathan and King David learned this lesson first hand in today’s reading from the Second Book of Samuel. Having moved up in the world from tending his father’s flock to tending God’s flock, David felt as though it was only proper that he should honor God by building a house for God that would be at least equal to his own home. It was well-intentioned sentiment; why should God have only a tent when David has a fine house? Even Nathan, the prophet, thought that this seemed like a good idea and gave David his blessing. Yet, in a scene reminiscent of God’s rebuke in the Book of Job, God gently tells David that it is not his place to build God’s house, and reminds him that God has never lived in a house and has never asked for one.
King David did what people have continued to try to do through the centuries—tie God down to a particular place, a particular time, or a particular people. We worship a living and active God, and whether it is out of a fear of God’s wildness or a desire for power, we respond by trying to contain God. After all, it would be a lot better if God were a placid God who stayed out of our way and was well behaved. How much easier would life be!
But, we worship a restless God, a God with an itch, with a vision for creation, a vision for justice. As God’s people bore the burdens of slavery and oppression, God did not watch from a distance, but bore it with them, moving among them. As God’s people rose up and escaped from the grips of Egypt, God did not watch from a distance, but wandered with them in the desert. And so God turns down David’s offer to sit still and idle in a house of God. Instead, God promises to continue moving among God’s people forever, to continue striving for justice, to continue bringing about creation.
It was in keeping with this promise that God consults with Mary and tells her of God’s plan for something new, something different that is coming. It was because Mary knew that she worshiped a restless God, a God always active and on the move, that she agreed to the plan.
It is this time of year that we most especially remember that we too worship a restless God, a God who is always working towards greater justice and towards a vision of creation. Even as we sit hear in a house built for God, we are reminded that our God does reside here. Though we believe that God does pass through these walls, we know that God is to be found mucking about mostly outside these walls. As we come now to the end of Advent, we pause to listen and watch for the new thing that God is about to do.