Psalms in the Lectionary
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Fourth Sunday in Advent Cycle A 2016


Psalm 24  Cycle A    Fourth Sunday of Advent    12/18/2016
Isaiah 7:10-14; Psalm 24:1-6; Romans 1:1-7; 
Matthew: 1:18-24
Psalm 24 is a procession hymn, most likely used to accompany the ark as it moved toward the temple area and sought to be readmitted within the temple gates.  This is a short psalm of only ten verses and we are only singing the first six this weekend.  If we sung the rest, we would notice that the Lord is being proclaimed a King of Glory, a Lord valiant in battle.  Robert Alter suggests that if the ark was carried out to the battlefields as is mentioned in 1 Samuel, this would be a fitting psalm as God triumphantly returns.  God accompanies his people in their battles.  This is also a psalm in which David proclaims that the Lord is Creator, the One who shaped the earth and its fullness, its seas and mountains and rivers.  If we are to follow the ark through the temple gates, we must be prepared: we must be pure of heart and morally upright. 
We are in the last week of Advent when we sing this song and the Lord is drawing near.  We began our Advent journey a short three weeks ago, but the time is fast approaching when we remember that this same Lord God of the ark and of the battlefield later emptied himself in the form of a slave for our redemption.  We will soon be singing Isaiah’s song about a child who is born, a son who is given: “Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father and Prince of Peace.” (Is. 9:6) John the Baptist invited us on our Advent journey of repentance and preparation for this celebration.  During our repentance and struggles, did we notice God’s presence alongside us in the battle?  We cannot repent without God’s grace.  As the day draws nearer, let us take the time to ask for God’s grace to make sure we are “ready,” not only ready with Christmas gifts and food and decorations, but inwardly ready.  Are we ready to welcome this child of peace with unabashed devotion and moral courage?  Psalm 24 tells us that those who enter the gates of the temple must have clean hearts and pure lives.  Come, Lord Jesus, and do not delay!
The refrain for this weekend’s psalm is taken from verse nine of the psalm:
“Let the Lord enter; he is the king of glory.”
verses 1-2:
The LORD’s are the earth and its fullness;
the world and those who dwell in it.
For He founded it upon the seas
and established it upon the rivers.
verses 3-4:
Who can ascend the mountain of the LORD?
or who may stand in his holy place?
One whose hands are sinless, whose heart is clean,
who desires not what is vain.
verses 5-6:
He shall receive a blessing from the LORD,
a reward from God his savior.
Such is the race that seeks for him,
that seeks the face of the God of Jacob.
Today’s first reading from Isaiah (7:110-14) foretells the prophecy of the virgin who will give birth to Emmanuel (God with us).
     The Lord spoke to Ahaz, saying: Ask for a sign from the Lord, your God; let it be deep as the netherworld, or high as the sky!  But Ahaz answered, “I will not ask!  I will not tempt the Lord!”  Then Isaiah said: Listen, O house of David!  Is it not enough for you to weary people, must you also weary my God?  Therefore the Lord himself will give you this sign: the virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall name him Emmanuel.     
The Gospel from Matthew (1:18-24) is an account of how the Christ came to be conceived by the Holy Spirit and was welcomed into Joseph’s home.
     This is how the birth of Jesus Christ came about.  When his mother Mary was betrothed to Joseph, but before they lived together, she was found with child through the Holy Spirit.  Joseph, her husband, since he was a righteous man, yet unwilling to expose her to shame, decided to divorce her quietly.  Such was his intention when, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, “Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary your wife into your home.  For it is through the Holy Spirit that this child has been conceived in her.  She will bear a son and you are to name him Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.”  All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet:
Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son,
and they shall name him Emmanuel,
which means “God is with us.”  When Joseph awoke, he did as the angel of the Lord commanded him and took his wife into his home.    
The second reading from Paul’s letter to the Romans (1:1-7) is the very beginning of the letter and is a long salutation in which he not only introduces himself to the people of Rome, but also tries to establish himself as an apostle.  In most of Paul’s letters, he is writing to faith communities that he established and has already known.  In the case of Rome, that is where Peter resides and he is writing ahead of his visit to let Peter and the Church at Rome know that he has been touched personally by God (on the road to Damascus – Acts 9:1-22), and has been sent by God as an apostle to the Gentiles.
     Paul, a slave of Christ Jesus, called to be an apostle and set apart for the gospel of God, which he promised previously through his prophets in the holy Scriptures, the gospel about his Son, descended from David according to the flesh, but established as Son of God in power according to the Spirit of holiness through resurrection from the dead, Jesus Christ our Lord.  Through him we have received the grace of apostleship, to bring about the obedience of faith, for the sake of his name, among all the Gentiles, among whom are you also, who are called to belong to Jesus Christ; to all the beloved of god in Rome, called to be holy.  Grace to you and peace from god our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
Psalm 24 is the perfect psalm to ready us for the final days of preparation for the feast of the Nativity.  It reminds us that God is creator of the earth in all its fullness, including us with our fallen nature.  It tells us that God accompanies us in our battles and prepares us to be of pure hearts when we enter the temple gates.  Maranatha!  Come, Lord Jesus!