II Samuel 7: 1-11, 16; Luke 1: 26-38
It is a simple but also poetically and symbolically suggestive observation that the word Bethlehem, the little town of our Savior’s birth, is drawn from two Hebrew words, for “house” and “bread.” I’m not sure if that’s because in some deep background of prehistoric antiquity this was a village of bakers. Names and titles don’t always come about in such obvious and literal ways. But the echoing is nonetheless interesting and meaningful in a devotional way. We never have one thing at a time, and the journey through these midwinter days and nights from Nazareth to Joseph’s hometown connects us even now on the Fourth Sunday of Advent to that gathering as he took the bread in his hands and said “this is my Body, given for you.” The manger itself the Holy Table, where in our hearts and minds the hard wood of the Cross becomes real for us, where he has given himself for us and for many for the forgiveness of sins. His Mercy Seat. The home of his abundant generosity and healing and blessing.
The reading from Second Samuel builds a long line of connection from the story of King David to the story of his son King Solomon. As we hear this passage this morning we of course know already that Solomon built a great Temple on the holy hill of Zion. But we know as well that the true home of the Lord of heaven and earth is in the hearts of his people, where he is and will be enthroned forever.
And in the womb of Mary is the Word made flesh. As we noticed last week with the beautiful Clara Miller Burd Annunciation window just outside this Chapel. Hail Mary, full of grace. The Lord is with you.
Many streams, flowing together, contributing to a deeper river of meaning. At 11 o’clock this morning, as you can see in your leaflets, the whole story will unfold right up the center aisle of St. Andrew’s Church. The Angel Gabriel. Mary and Joseph, angels and shepherds, the Baby in the Manger. The Star. The Wise Men from the East, at the end of their long journey.
It’s hard to think of a story that we’ve heard more often. A child is born in Bethlehem. The town that is called “House of Bread.” Long ago and far away. And yet it is certainly true as well that every time we hear it, when we tell it to our kids and when they tell it back to us, it is fresh and new. And it is like hearing it all again for the first time.
As we turn from this Fourth Sunday of Advent, and begin the last part of our journey toward Christmas again this year, may he indeed be born again into our lives, may he find his home in our hearts, and may we be fed and nourished and sustained by him.