December 18, 2011 - Fourth Sunday of Advent

Today's Readings

There are two kinds of debt. The first kind is like credit card debt or a car loan or a mortgage. We receive a benefit for nothing, so we owe an equivalent amount. If you receive a car, you owe what a car is worth. This is your debt. This is the same kind of debt that we incur when someone does us a favor. We owe them a favor. This is also the kind of debt we owe to God. He gave us this planet and the air and the food and life itself. We owe him a lot, and we can never pay him back because anything we have we got from him, including our selves. We owe God this first kind of debt, but he can never owe us this kind of debt. What can we do for God? He needs nothing. He is perfectly happy. If he did want something, he could create it.

However, he can owe us the second kind of debt. The second kind of debt is what we owe through a promise. If we make a promise, we are in debt to the keeping of the promise. Although we are never obligated to keep any evil promises, any other promise is just as binding on us as the first kind of debt. When you make a promise, you put yourself in debt. Since God can make a promise, he can be in this kind of debt. Since God has made many promises, he is in this kind of debt.

What does God owe us? He promised Noah that he would never flood the earth again. He promised Abraham that he would make him the father of many generations. He promised Moses to bring the Israelites into the Promised Land. He makes lots of promises. He promised Ezekiel that he would give us hearts that know his will. He promised Jeremiah that he had plans for his welfare.

So God and you have this in common: you look over your credit card bills and see how much you owe. Sometimes you have to think for awhile about what this charge is and that charge. God looks at the Bible filled with so many promises and sees what he owes. Does God ever look at all those promises, wondering when he ever promised this or that? Of course not, he is God; his memory is quite good.

But we might wonder why he promised so much to a people who can do nothing for him. The answer is simple: he loves us. Like a father who promises his son the world, like a mother who promises her daughter happiness, like any parent who makes unreasonable promises to their children, so God has promised us so very much. We can be sure, however, that God is good for it; he will keep his promises. With God, nothing is impossible, and he would not promise what he did not intend to fulfill.

In our first reading today, we see God make a promise to King David. In our Gospel today, we see that promise fulfilled. God promises David a son, an heir who will reign forever. God promises David that his throne and his house will endure forever. For awhile it seemed as if God would not keep his promise. For over 500 years, the throne of David lay dormant. The descendents of David were poor, not kings.

Then God sent the angel Gabriel to a town of Galilee called Nazareth, to a virgin betrothed to a man named Joseph, of the house of David, and the virgin’s name was Mary. Promise fulfilled. King Jesus will be king forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end. Up until that day, a person could have wondered about the promise of God, but when it was fulfilled, it was fulfilled.

It is the same with all the other promises of God. Jesus promised us a room in his Father’s house. You can be sure of that room. It is waiting for you. It might be possible to doubt the promise of God, but someday there will be no doubt anymore. Hopefully, on that day, you and I will be resting comfortably in the rooms he prepared for us.

God has made so many promises, and every one of them will be fulfilled. And when they are fulfilled, they will not be fulfilled in a meager way. God’s promise to David was amazing enough, but the fulfillment in Jesus Christ is far, far greater than anything David could have imagined.

God has made so many promises because he wants us to love him in return. We stand between gift and promise. We have been given so much, and we have been promised even more. The gifts prove that God is rich enough to keep his promises. The promises prove that we are still in need. If we had everything we wanted, we would not realize that what we really want is the giver and the promiser. If we had everything we would not have a longing for God.

This world is good, but it is not good enough. The world only seems evil at times because it is not good enough. What is loss if not the loss of something good? Because this world is good but not good enough, because we stand between gift and promise, we can freely love God. We have the ability to choose to love God, and we have good reason to do so.

God is wooing us with gifts and promises. He wants us to love him, not because he needs our love, but because there is nothing greater in this universe than to love God. God himself is the greatest gift he can give to us. To love God is to be happy. To love God freely is to be freely happy. God has given us the opportunity to be in love with him.

When we do love God, we will find that he loves us more. David tried to do something for God today; he wanted to build a house for Ark of God. Instead, God did something better for David. “You are going to build me a house? You are going to build me a house?”, the Lord says, “No. I will build you a house, and it will last forever.”