Sunday, December 21, 2008

The Fourth Week of Advent: Sunday

The Adoration of the Magi
Bartolo di Fredi, 1380's

The readings for Sunday of the fourth week of Advent encourage us to think about God's light, which has come to fill this world of darkness. In the days of Israel's kingdom, God's people considered Mt. Zion, the city of Jerusalem, and the Temple Mount the center of the earth, the hilltop from which the glory of God shone. This is reflected in today's Vesper's psalm, Psalm 48:
We ponder your steadfast love, O God,
in the midst of your temple.
Your name, O God, like your praise,
reaches to the ends of the earth.
Your right hand is filled with victory.
Let Mount Zion be glad,
let the towns of Judah rejoice
because of your judgments.
Walk about Zion, go all around it,
count its towers,
consider well its ramparts;
go through its citadels,
that you may tell the next generation
that this is God,
our God for ever and ever.
He will be our guide for ever.

(Psalm 48.9-13)
God's name, like his praise, reaches to the ends of the earth. He so loved the world, that he gave his only Son. The Good News proclaimed by the angels was for all people. The Gospel of Matthew illustrates this by introducing us to the magi, Gentiles from the east, as the first people who bowed before the newborn King. God intended the light of Jesus to reach all people and fill all his creation.

To shine this light, Jesus came to be the New Temple, the meeting place for God and human beings. John tells us, "And the Word became flesh and lived among us, and we have seen his glory, the glory as of a father’s only son, full of grace and truth" (John 1.14). When the apostle says that Jesus "lived among us," he uses the word for "tabernacle," thus linking the First Testament Tent of Meeting with the Word Incarnate. As the shekinah glory filled the tabernacle and later the Temple, so God's glory filled Jesus and became apparent to those who met him.

This psalm encourages the people of Israel to thoroughly familiarize themselves with Mt. Zion and its sacred places, in order that they might more fully know and love the God of glory. In the same way, the more deeply we know Jesus, the more we will say, "This is God, our God forever and ever; He will be our Guide forever."

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