In the first reading and the Gospel, we hear of two people who became important pillars of salvation history. Both David and Mary are biblical examples of divine selection, and they can help us to reflect on our own calling from God.
‘You have found favor with God.’ (Lk 1:30)
What can you do to bless others?
What is your vocation?
How can you empower people in your community?
David and Mary are polar opposites. David’s rise to power was paved with many questionable and corrupt actions, such as war, murder, politically motivated marriages and adultery. Mary, full of grace and selected to be the mother of God, is held in later tradition to be without sin. Both of them receive favor from God.
Certainly, David is not a model for how to campaign, lead or marry. Yet the first reading is packed with a royal theology and rationale for the Davidic dynasty. Through the prophet Nathan, God conveys intent to establish a dynasty through David. The reading describes God’s covenant with David and his descendants. David is promised greatness, protection from enemies and an everlasting throne. The Davidic dynasty ended with the Babylonian exile, and this inexplicable defeat and vacancy were jarring. In the New Testament, the covenant with David is invoked and fulfilled through Mary and the birth of Jesus.
The biblical tradition does not provide much background on Mary’s life. In today’s Gospel, we hear her response to her calling to be Jesus’ mother. Through the angel Gabriel, Mary is told that she has been favored by God to conceive and bear a son who will be “Son of the Most High” and who will be given “the throne of David his father…and of his kingdom there will be no end.” Luke interprets Jesus’ birth as the fulfillment of the Davidic promise from the first reading, reframing the covenant to be a promise for salvation, not only an assurance of a king seated in Jerusalem.
The divine favor given to David and Mary is facilitated by and shared with others. Nathan confirms that the favor given to David will result in his son Solomon building the temple, and future generations will hold the throne. Likewise, Gabriel informs Mary that her favor with God enables Christ to enter the world. Divine selection is seldom about one person; instead, God forms special relationships with select people in order to affect and bless many people.
On this Fourth Sunday of Advent, we hear about David and Mary because Jesus is their connection, coming from the line of David and born of the virgin Mary. The Lectionary places these readings just before Christmas to help us think about Jesus’ heritage, significance and important people in his family. The readings also give us an opportunity to reflect on our own life and vocation. They should remind us to think about how we can positively influence the world and be a blessing for others.