"It was I..."
To be sure, people should be commended and rewarded for their effort, skill, and initiative, but no one is truly “self-made”.
To varying extents, we all depend upon others for our successes and, as today’s first reading reminds us (2 Samuel 7:1-5, 8b-12, 14a, 16), we all depend on God.
In today’s first reading, David was settled in his palace, relishing the feelings of success, but Nathan the prophet reminds him of the secret of his success:
Thus says the LORD...
It was I who took you from the pasture
and from the care of the flock
to be commander of my people Israel.
I have been with you wherever you went,
and I have destroyed all your enemies before you.
The Lord goes on to tell David how he will continue to be the one making things possible and successful for David.
(Finally, the Lord hints at the coming of someone who will be both son of David and Son of God: a prophecy fulfilled in our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.)
In these difficult and somewhat frightening times, it is good to hear the Lord’s message to David: it is I who gave you success and it is I who will give you success.
This message is echoed in today’s second reading (Romans 16:25-27) as Saint Paul speaks of “Him who can strengthen you”.
But true and lasting strength and success is not given for our selfish enjoyment, but rather for God’s purposes and for God’s glory.
To him who can strengthen you,
according to my gospel
and the proclamation of Jesus Christ,
according to the revelation
of the mystery kept secret for long ages
but now manifested
through the prophetic writings and,
according to the command of the eternal God,
made known to all nations
to bring about the obedience of faith,
to the only wise God, through Jesus Christ
be glory forever and ever. Amen.
All the more reason for us, in this time of worry, to focus less on the material things of this holiday season and to focus more on the purposes and glory, the power and the wonder, of what we are about to celebrate: foretold most immediately as we hear in today’s Gospel (Luke 1:26-38):
The angel Gabriel was sent from God
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.
And coming to her, he said,
“Hail, full of grace! The Lord is with you.”
But she was greatly troubled at what was said
and pondered what sort of greeting this might be.
Then the angel said to her,
“Do not be afraid, Mary,
for you have found favor with God.
“Behold, you will conceive in your womb
and bear a son,
and you shall name him Jesus.
He will be great
and will be called Son of the Most High,
and the Lord God will give him
the throne of David his father,
and he will rule over the house of Jacob forever,
and of his kingdom there will be no end.”
But Mary said to the angel,
“How can this be,
since I have no relations with a man?”
And the angel said to her in reply,
“The Holy Spirit will come upon you,
and the power of the Most High will overshadow you.
Therefore the child to be born
will be called holy, the Son of God.
And behold, Elizabeth, your relative,
has also conceived a son in her old age,
and this is the sixth month
for her who was called barren;
for nothing will be impossible for God.”
“Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord.
May it be done to me according to your word.”
Let this Christmas be blessed.