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"Your steadfast love is established forever" | Reflection for Advent IV

Matthew Neugebauer

Saturday, December 23, 2023

Detail of the Jesse Tree window in York Minster, England. Wikimedia Commons.
Psalm 89
Last week, we heard the Virgin Mary sing of her blessedness enduring through "all generations" (Luke 1:48). This week, we hear that her ancestor David is also blessed through "all generations" (Psalm 89:4). Christians see the promise to David fulfilled in Mary’s son Jesus, the Anointed One who “reigns for ever and ever” (Revelation 11:15).  God shows his enduring faithfulness by establishing the throne of David for all time.
This Sunday, like last Sunday, we come up against the staggering enormity of eternity. It's a span of time too big to grasp. “All generations” describes the totality of Christ’s reign: at no time in history is the Crucified Lamb not Lord and God of all things. But that’s still too big for us to truly comprehend.
At the same time, tomorrow involves something very short, very quick. Hopefully, it isn’t too quick for us to take a breath, but for some it just might be. I’m referring to the liturgical oddity that comes around every six years or so, when the Fourth Sunday of Advent falls on December 24. We’ll gather at Mass to mark the final moments of this season of waiting, of longing, and of patience, and then we’ll burst into a rapid transition to ready our churches to celebrate the birth of Christ. On Sunday, December 24, 2023, the time between waiting and arrival is very, very short. (Hopefully parishes have planned for this, and clergy and all involved will have time to catch their breath, some lunch, and maybe a nap!)
The point, or maybe the lesson, is that time is relative.“With the Lord one day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like one day” (2 Peter 3:8). Or maybe the point is that time isn't really our ultimate concern, but that our lives our lived “with the Lord.” We can endure the parts of life that inevitably involve patience, longing, and even suffering, if our eyes and hearts are open to the abiding presence of God's loving kindness in every area of our lives. Not only is God's "steadfast love" established for all time: it also fills out all of space, and all of our lives and our loves, right now. There is no time in history that the Crucified Lamb is not Lord and God of all things. There is no part of your life or mine that God is unwilling to touch and to redeem. God is not ashamed of you. Sin is simply our refusal of God's love, not God's refusal of us.
How do I know this? Well, sometimes I don't. I forget, as we all do. But God's voice continues to utter, to remind: "I have made a covenant with my chosen one” (Psalm 89:3), the son of David, the son of Mary, who is God's very presence with us, Emmanuel. "Forever I will keep my steadfast love for him," through him show my love for all Creation, "and my covenant with him will stand firm” (v. 28).
Tomorrow morning, we can "sing of your steadfast love, O Lord" (v. 1). Tomorrow night we can continue,
God of God, Light of Light
Lo, he abhors not the Virgin's womb
Very God, begotten, not created
O Come, let us adore him
Christ the Lord.

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