This last Sunday of Advent this year falls on Christmas Eve. In addition to the Annunciation story (Lk.1:26-38) and Mary’s Magnificat (Lk.1:46b-55), 2 Sam.7 and Psa.89 narrate and extol God’s covenant with David. Rich stuff, yes? But it may be Paul’s great doxology at the end of his letter to the Romans that aligns best with overlap of the fourth Sunday of Advent and Christmas Eve.
Many families have a tradition of opening one present on Christmas Eve as a foretaste of the gift-giving to follow the next day. I want to liken Paul’s Roman’s doxology in this week’s reading as that present we may open early on Christmas Eve. In it Paul praises God and the one whom he has sent to fulfill all his purposes.
Here’s his doxology:
25 “Now to God who is able to strengthen you according to my gospel and the proclamation of Jesus Christ, according to the revelation of the mystery that was kept secret for long ages 26 but is now disclosed, and through the prophetic writings is made known to all the Gentiles, according to the command of the eternal God, to bring about the obedience of faith— 27 to the only wise God, through Jesus Christ, to whom be the glory forever! Amen.”
Paul invites us here to look ahead and behind the “Christmas Miracle” (Karl Barth) to gaze in wonder at what this solitary birth of a peasant baby in a backwater town in a small Middle Eastern country amounts to. And it is far more than we could imagine or even hope for!
A mystery is revealed in this child. A mystery we could never figure out even with unlimited time, information, and ingenuity. It has to be told to us. And it has been!
And this word has gone out to the Gentiles. That’s most of us folks! We’re included. From the beginning God had us in mind. And not only that, God has included us for blessing (“according to the command of the eternal God”). The “obedience of faith” is Paul’s way in Romans of saying salvation, reconciliation, new life, being conformed to the image of Christ, a world remade. And he praises God for the unfathomable magnificence of this goodness.
And the praise and glory due this “only wise God” comes through Jesus Christ who comes to us tomorrow same gifts in hands and an open welcome for his people and his world.
God is for us! We are made for God! And the unveiling of that mystery is the gift Paul bids us open this Christmas Eve.