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Watches of the Night
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"Watches of the Night"

"But That Night"

          This is one of the rare years when both the 4th Sunday of Advent and Christmas Eve are celebrated on the same calendar day of December 24th. The "night watch" of Advent (covenant promise) moves quickly this year into the "New Dawn" of Christmas (Christmas covenant) abruptly without a 4th week of Advent. I am reminded that the word, Advent, and the word, covenant, both share the same root meaning in the English language: "to come": "The King shall come when morning dawns".

          In the first reading from this 4th Sunday of Advent (2 Sam. 7) King David is settled at peace in his 'house of cedar' in Jerusalem. He desires to build a house for the ark of God. What God has to say is in stark contrast to both David's desire and the Prophet Nathan's initial recommendation to David ("Go, do whatever you have in mind, for the LORD is with you" --2 Sam. 7:3). At first Nathan agreed with David, presuming on God's will without taking David's desire to God in prayer. This is "Nathan in the natural" not speaking under the anointing of God's Spirit. There is far too much "Nathan in the natural" in the Church today! How dangerous it can be for an intercessor to move out in ministry without the lead and direction of the Holy Spirit--without knowing God's "mind" on how to pray.  Then the text of 2 Samuel shifts with the words: "But that night" (2 Sam. 7:4) the LORD spoke to Nathan...Thus says the LORD" (2 Sam. 7:5). After God has spoken to the heart of Nathan, we begin to hear the true "mind" of God for David--and what a powerful, prophetic utterance it turns out to be! In The Book of the Prophet Jeremiah, the Lord says, "I know well the plans I have in mind for you" (Jer. 29:11). 

          David wanted to build for God a house of cedar to dwell in. Yet, the Psalm writer reminds us, "Unless the LORD build the house, they labor in vain who build" (Ps. 127:1). How different it was with Mary. Mary allowed God to make of her His "House of gold". David wanted to build a dwelling for the ark of the covenant. Mary allowed God to make of her His 'Ark of the New Covenant'! God wants to make of each of us a true, spiritual "house of prayer" for all peoples: "We are his house" (Heb. 3:6).  David wanted to do great things for God. Mary sings in her Magnificat, "God who is mighty has done great things for me" (Luke 1:49). One's natural desires may seem noble and good, but if they are not God's, they will vanish like morning dew. Even Peter, swept away in the moment at the scene of the Transfiguration, says to Jesus, "Lord, it is good that we are here. If you wish I will make three tents here, one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah" (Mt. 17:4). As Pope John Paul II reminds us, "The Marian dimension of the Church precedes the Petrine (of Peter)" (Mulieris dignitatem, Apostolic Letter, 8-15-88; # 27).

          Mary allowed God "to build" in her: "May it be done to me according to your word" (Luke 1:38). The truth is that the greatest things in life are those that we allow God to do in our lives! It is what we allow God to make of us that is most important! Mary believed in a future that was of God's making--not of her own making. Intercessors must learn to yield and lay our plans and agendas aside and let God "build" in us too: "I formed you, and set you as a covenant of the people" (Is. 42:6).

          In salvation history covenant always originates in the Heart of God who is Love!: "But the plan of the LORD stands forever; the design of his heart" (Ps. 33:11). Whether it is the covenant with Noah, Abraham, or with Moses and the Israelites, God's covenants with humanity always come with promises:

"To promise is one of the key words of the language of love. [For God] to promise is to announce and at the same time guarantee a gift, [a pledge of His word, to proclaim the future as sure and certain], and at the same time to stir in the heart [of humanity] the wholehearted adherence and the generosity of faith" (Dictionary of the Bible, p. 465).  

          Whereas the earlier promises of God concerned offspring, land, or an abundance of prosperity, at the time of "the prophets the promises become spiritual and interior: the essential thing becomes a New Covenant" (Dictionary of the Bible, p. 465). The New Covenant--"a better covenant, enacted on better promises" (Heb. 8:6)--is addressed to the depths of the heart of humanity--the interior person:

"Deep within them I shall plant my law, writing it in their hearts" (Jer. 31:33).

          The covenant is to be an exclusive, nuptial covenant of committed love--a "spousal communion with the Lord in grace and love"(Pope John Paul II, General Audience, April-24-1996). In this New Covenant, Divine Love would speak to human hearts: "In these last days, he spoke to us through a son"(Heb. 1:2).  For " the heart is the place of covenant" just as it is the place of encounter, truth and decision (see CCC 2563). God desires a covenant of the heart, of love, of fidelity calling for total commitment, total surrender and faith. "God's love calls for a response of love" (see JP II, General Audience, 8-16-89): I give you My Word; I give you My Jesus! In the depths of her "daring heart" Mary believed. The only real proper response is the one offered by Mary at the Annunciation: "May it be done to me according to your word" (Luke 1:38).

Questions:

1)   Are there areas in my life where I presume to know God's will without seeking His mind and waiting upon Him to lead?

2)   Is there an area in my life where I am struggling to give God my total covenant commitment?

Scriptures:

Any scripture from the text; Songs 6:3; Is. 62:4-5; Ezek. 16:60; Ezek. 36:26

"TWO-ZERO-ONE-SEVEN, TIME TO STORM HEAVEN"

CHRISTMAS MESSAGE:

"WE WISH YOU A BLESSED AND HOLY CHRISTMAS DAY AND CHRISTMAS SEASON, AND PLEASE KNOW THAT ALL OF YOU ARE IN OUR PRAYERS!"

**PLEASE VISIT THE "WATCHES OF THE NIGHT" FOLDER ON THE "TEACHINGS" TAB FOR CHRISTMAS TEACHINGS**

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