2 Samuel 6:1-11
In the first reading above, David wants to bring the ark of God to the Israelites. He orders the ark to be put in a brand new, racy cart driven by the sons of Abinadab. Everyone celebrates wildly, playing all kinds of musical instruments. Yes, David crafted a great extravaganza, but he did not heed God’s wishes: the ark was not carried on human shoulders. David acted impulsively, and he did not ask God what He wanted. The Israelites didn’t need new distractions- they needed new passions.
As we find ourselves amidst a pandemic that shows no sign of abating anytime soon, I think many of us want to react against the rules, limits and restrictions that have held us captive for eight months. So we may want to go all out to plan a big Christmas celebration. Hey, let’s put up the biggest tree ever, with the most elaborate lights and decorations we can find! Let’s prepare a huge banquet to make up for all the deprivations of the last few months! We deserve it!
Think for a moment about those over-the-top man-made plans. Then think about some of the past Christmases that you have celebrated alone or with others. Which moments seem really special and have stayed with you? I remember sharing a hymnbook with my father in a Houston church and singing ‘Away in a Manger’. It was such a peaceful moment and I felt so calm. A friend just finished scanning over 10 years of childhood photos of her and her brother, many taken at Christmas. She says it made her feel like a child at Christmas again: safe, excited, anticipating new adventures.
One point this scripture reading makes is that big holiday splurges alone will not make up for our drastically curtailed lives. David asks, “How shall the ark of the Lord come to me?”, and then delivers the ark as requested, carried on his own shoulders. And when David obeyed God’s wishes and respected His holiness, blessings followed.
Try this exercise. Make a list of your most unforgettable Christmas moments. You’ll probably see that very few of them mention fabulous gifts, showy decorations or delicious meals. I’ll guess that just as mine did, most of your treasured moments involve cherished family members and close friends. This may not be the year that we get to see and visit with all those dear people, but we’ll see them again for Christmas.
Just as we wait eagerly to see those we love most, we rejoice to see Jesus yet again at Christmas. The reading from Hebrews tells us that God’s message to mankind, His great gift to us, is now given through Jesus, he who is above, beyond and far more than all the angels in heaven.