Advent IV / C / 2018
Msgr. Patrick S. Brennan
We come to the 4th Sunday of Advent, the conclusion of our preparation for the great feast of Christmas. Our readings today reflect that proximity, that closeness to Christmas, with readings from the prophet Micah and the Gospel of Luke—the "visitation" (not the visit, but the "Visitation") of Mary and Elizabeth. These readings help to prepare us for the coming of our Savior, the Messiah, at Christmas.
One thing to keep in mind as we look at the readings—and as we prepare for Christmas—is David. King David. We cannot stress enough the importance of David, both in the OT and in the NT, to understand the person of Jesus.
Of all the important figures in the OT, David was the most important. Is it any wonder, then, that Jesus would become, in a sense, the "new David"—the new "anointed one," the Messiah, who would save his people.
Time and again in the NT Jesus is called 1) a Son of David, 2) from the house of David, 3) born in David’s royal city, 4) the christos, the Christ, 5) the anointed one, like David, whose "reign will last forever," and "whose kingdom will never end."
All of this goes back to the promise made to David by the prophet Samuel (II Sam 7) that his kingdom will be an everlasting kingdom, for all time. And from his line would come the definitive king, one who would rule not just Israel but the whole world—and the universe itself.
As later prophets reflected on this, another image began to emerge: that of a divine Messiah. Not only would this Messiah come from the line of David as a human person; he would also be a divine. The prophet Daniel saw one "like a Son of Man," human, but also riding upon "the clouds of heaven," divine. Through this human and divine king, God would shepherd his people.
Listen to the Prophet Micah in our first reading: "You, Bethlehem-Ephrathah, too small to be among the clans of Judah, from you shall come forth one who is to be the ruler of Israel." And not just Israel. The prophet sees this ruler as a universal king, whose "greatness shall reach the ends of the earth; he shall be peace."
These OT references help us understand the Gospel today—the beautiful scene of Mary visiting her cousin Elizabeth. But there is more going on here than a visit . . . this is a Visitation, full of theological meaning—and once again, connected to David.
Mary has just heard the message of the angel Gabriel that her child Jesus would receive "the throne of David his father . . . and of his kingdom there will be no end."
Elizabeth says that the "infant in my womb leaped for joy" when Mary’s greeting reached her. What is the deeper meaning here?
Once again, we go back to the OT, to a scene in which David brings the Ark of the Covenant—the presence of God—from the "hill country" into Jerusalem. The scripture says that the David danced for joy as he led the Ark into the city.
Now, John the Baptist, in the womb of Elizabeth, leaps for joy at the new Ark, Mary, the God-Bearer, as she visits Elizabeth.
In a couple of days, our joy will be complete at the birth of our Savior, a Son of David. May God give us all a blessed and merry Christmas!