|A model of Solomon's Temple|
26 December 2017
Fourth Sunday of Advent
I’m not quite ready. This is the shortest Advent possible, and this year, it feels like it. I don’t know about you, but it feels like we just started Advent, and tomorrow night/tonight we are at Christmas. That’s not to say that the time has had good things. On the contrary, I have had some great celebrations over the past week. But I just feel like I’m not ready yet. Now does not seem like the right time for Christmas.
God in our first reading tells King David through the prophet Nathan that it wasn’t, in fact, quite time yet for the temple. David wanted to build a temple out of his love for God. David lived in a pretty plush house for the times, and wanted God’s house to be even greater. And at first, Nathan agrees. But then, after God speaks to Nathan at night, Nathan tells David that it’s not time yet. God has blessed David in many ways, and God will even make a dynasty for David that will last forever. But God will have David’s son, Solomon, build the temple, not David.
We can’t really say that God wasn’t ready for David to build a temple. But the promise God made to David, and even the building of the temple, was not just in the short term, with David’s immediate descendants and a temple building, but looked forward to the Gospel passage we heard today.
God fulfilled His promise to David through Jesus, who has a kingdom that will never end. Whereas David died and rested with his ancestors, Jesus was raised from the dead after three days, and lives forever. And since Mary is of the house of David, Jesus is the fulfillment of that Davidic prophecy. Jesus rules over the house of Jacob for ever from His throne in heaven. Perhaps that is why Handel’s Messiah is so popular even at Christmas. The words from the Hallelujah chorus, at which people traditionally stand, is from the Book of Revelation, and says, “For the Lord God omnipotent reigneth” and “The Kingdom of this world/ Is become the kingdom of our Lord/ And of His Christ, and He shall reign for ever and ever” and “King of Kings, and Lord of Lords.” That promise that we associate with Jesus being born, is still fulfilled as Christ reigns in heaven for ever and ever as King of Kings and Lord of Lords.
But God also fulfills in our Gospel the promise to have a temple. No, there is no building really spoken of in our Gospel. It speaks about the Annunciation, when Jesus becomes flesh in the womb of the Virgin Mary. But the temple is the house of God, the place where God dwells, and the womb of the Blessed Virgin Mary becomes the new temple, not made with hands, that houses God, the second Person of the Blessed Trinity. And because the temple was the house of God, it had to be pure, immaculate, so God preserved, from the moment of her conception, the Blessed Virgin Mary from the stain of original sin, which we celebrate each year on 8 December. When King Solomon built the temple and consecrated it, God overshadowed it and dwelt in it. So, when Mary said “yes” to becoming the Mother of Jesus, and therefore the Mother of God, the Theotokos, God overshadowed her and Jesus began to dwell in her.
But besides Mary being the temple, because she was the house of God, Jesus is also the eternal temple, which was destroyed in His crucifixion, but rebuilt in three days. Jesus’ Body is the physical house of His Divinity, and so is the new temple forever, because Jesus’ humanity is never divorced from His Divinity; they are forever one flesh, the marriage of God and man.
But we, too, are called to be the temple of God. God consecrates us and begins to dwell within us in baptism. Our bodies become the temple of the Holy Spirit, which the Church holds to even in our death, which is why the Church recommends a funeral and burial with a body whenever possible (even if the Church does allow cremation as long as one does not act in a way that rejects the resurrection of the body). All throughout our lives we strive to make sure that the temple is clean, and a place where God feels at home. We don’t do as well as the Blessed Virgin Mary, who was the perfect disciple, but when our temple needs cleaning and purifying, we ask God’s mercy in confession, so that it can be a place where the Holy Spirit feels at home again. God always gives us the necessary grace to live as His temple, but we have to respond to that grace.
As we prepare tonight to celebrate the Nativity of our Lord, when the temple of the Lord in Jesus became visible in Bethlehem, may we also prepare our temples, even in this last day, to be the pure and holy temple of God.