King David is told by the Prophet Nathan in today’s reading from the Book of Samuel that God comes in unexpected ways. The king wants to build a great temple to honor God– perhaps a palace of costly cedar wood like his own – but God needs no royal palace, the prophet says. Buildings inevitably fall. God promises David something that will never fall. Through generations, God will be with David’s descendants. Good or bad, it does not matter, God will be faithful to the promise.
It’s a promise meant for us too. God abides with us in Jesus Christ, from one generation to another. Civilizations come and go; nations rise and fall, cities prosper and decay, but God remains with the world he created. He will not abandon it. We hope too in the promise made to David. “The Lord is king; let the earth rejoice.” The Tree of Jesse grows.
In our gospel reading, Zechariah praises God for the child he doubted would come. John does not follow his father as a priest in the temple, but instead goes into the unpredictable wilderness to prepare the way of the Lord. Like John each generation must go out to meet the beautiful unknown.
We misunderstand the mystery of the Birth of Jesus if we see it solely as something of the past. We limit our hope for the future if we see it only in terms of the world we know. The Birth of Jesus, like all his mysteries, is never over; it abides and throws light on the world to come.