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A sermon preached by the Rev. Linda Harrison on the Fourth Sunday of Advent, December 21, 2008
Year B – II Samuel 7.1-11, 16; Psalm 89.10-4, 19-26; Romans 16.25-27; Luke 1.26-38

        Are you ready? We have had four Sundays to prepare – twenty-two days in Advent,
so far, in order to get ready. So, are you ready? You only have two more days to prepare.
        For what are you preparing, anyway?
        There is a baby coming; but none of us needs to decorate a nursery or stock up on
diapers. We do not need to read birthing books or buy the newest stroller/car seat
contraption. We are not sending out birth announcements.
        For what are we preparing?
                                                  * * * * *
        King David, safe and snug after years of running and warring, now wants to see God
safe and snug in a house, also. David had been on the run from King Saul after the prophet
Samuel delivered God’s message that Saul had lost Divine favor and had now anointed
David as king of Israel. Saul was pretty angry and took it out on David. After Saul and
David reconciled, David continued to battle for land and territory for many years,
campaigning away from home against the Philistines. At this point in the story from this
morning’s reading in the Hebrew Testament, David is home and settled. He wants to see
God settled, too.
        God interrupts David’s plan and rejects the human notion of “settled”. God rejects
being confined to a static place. The writer of this story underscores this view with phrases
like, “I have been moving about [with my people]” and “I have been with you wherever you
went”. God dwells among the people, not in an artificial edifice. God makes of the people a
home and an empire; the people do not make homes and empires for God.
        This is a surprising twist in a time when and a culture where rulers of countries and
territories showed off their power, might, and wealth by the size of their palaces and
temples. God tells David that David’s might and authority do not rest in buildings, but in
God’s words and promises alone.
        Fast forward a few centuries. Talk about surprising twists! By co-opting the
language of the Roman Empire and using it treasonously, God interrupts a young woman’s
life. God sends an angel to a political hot spot to announce to Mary that she will bear a
child who will rival the Caesars of Rome. Nazareth was a dicey place. The poorest of the
poor barely eked out a living in that region. The abject poverty in the area bred contempt
among the Jews for the Roman Empire and their supposed Pax Romana – the “peace of
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A sermon preached by the Rev. Linda Harrison on the Fourth Sunday of Advent, December 21, 2008
Year B – II Samuel 7.1-11, 16; Psalm 89.10-4, 19-26; Romans 16.25-27; Luke 1.26-38

Rome”. Their contempt fueled Jewish nationalism and insurrections were not uncommon
in the area.
        Before Jesus is even born, he is wreaking political havoc by interrupting the status
quo and usurping the titles and powers reserved solely for the Caesars: divine parentage
and birth, divine status, reigning in perpetuity. God, in Jesus, wreaking holy havoc.
        Luke never meant his version of the birth narrative to be a cozy scene of domestic
tranquility. We have lost the urgency in the vocabulary that Luke uses. The Annunciation
is not the only place Luke uses seditious language to tell his tale. Mary’s song of praise,
also known as the Magnificat, is full of treasonous words, as are Luke’s version of the birth
of Jesus and the language Luke puts in the mouths of the angels announcing the birth of
the Christ to the shepherds. Everything about this story is in direct contradiction to the
sentimentality with which we typically surround the story of Jesus’ birth. God interrupts
and God interrupts in the most unsettling ways - holy havoc.
        Are you prepared to be interrupted and unsettled?
        God does not “play it safe”. God does not go along with the political status quo; God
refuses to be safely ensconced in a house of cedar; God will not remain safely “out there”
somewhere beyond the realm of creation. God moved with the people of Israel through the
wilderness and God let David know that that would continue to be God’s way. Luke’s story
tells us that indeed God does continue to move with us in our messy wilderness. God
continues to dwell among the people and refuses to be set apart. God makes of the people
a home.
                                                * * * * *
        Yes, a baby is coming. Are you prepared? Not with diapers and layette sets, but
with your heart. That baby is the Incarnate Word of God, God’s unsettling interruption in
our lives: God dwelling among us. That baby announces that God does not intend to stay
at a safe distance from us, contained, domesticated, and settled. Have you prepared your
heart to become God’s dwelling place? Based on today’s reading, and my own experience, I
am certain that God will wreak holy havoc. Are you prepared?

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