2 Sam 7.4, 8-16: That night Yahweh told Nathan, ... “So now, say this to my servant David: ‘This is what Yahweh of hosts says: I took you from the pasture and from your work as a shepherd to make you leader of my people Israel. I was with you wherever you went, and I defeated all your enemies before you. Now I will make you as famous as the great men of the earth. I will establish a place for my people Israel and settle them there; they will live there and not be disturbed any more. Violent men will not oppress them again, as they did in the beginning and during the time when I appointed judges to lead my people Israel. Instead, I will give you relief from all your enemies. Yahweh declares to you that he himself will build a dynastic house for you. When the time comes for you to die, I will raise up your descendant, one of your own sons, to succeed you, and I will establish his kingdom. He will build a house for my name, and I will make his dynasty permanent. I will become his father and he will become my son. When he sins, I will correct him with the rod of men and with wounds inflicted by human beings. But my loyal love will not be removed from him as I removed it from Saul, whom I removed from before you. Your house and your kingdom will stand before me permanently; your dynasty will be permanent.’”
What we talk about tonight--the scripture passages we listen to, the story that connects them--is the most important thing we’ve talked about all through the last four weeks of Advent. We are listening to the story of Jesus as it unfolds. The story begins with a promise, with prophecy, and leads us right up to our own celebration in just a few days. It leads to a barn in Bethlehem, to a cross outside Jerusalem, to an empty grave, and to our continued waiting for Jesus to come again with his kingdom. This is an important story.
But I need to confess that I have a hard time, sometimes, relating to it. You see, tonight is different from the other nights we’ve gathered together this Advent. In the past weeks, we’ve talked about hope and repentance, about peace, about joy even in the midst of mourning--things that are in a lot of ways timeless, things that are abstract enough to be able to touch on each and any of our lives, whoever we are. Hope and peace and joy and, especially, repentance and mourning are things that we each can explain and illustrate from experiences in our own lives. But tonight is not like those things.
Tonight we are talking about something that is not abstract or general or public domain in any sense. Tonight we’re not even so much talking as listening. We are listening to a very specific, very unique story, the story that tells us who Jesus is, that tells us why he can be the source of our joyful hope for peace. We’re listening to events that are not general but historical, things that happened in history, promises that were given, a baby that was born. And this can be a lot more difficult to talk about, to relate to. What do we know about ancient kings in far off countries, about promises of an ideal leader, about the politics of three thousand years ago--we can barely keep up with our own! Why should we care about this?