King David – living the dream! I mean who could have imagined? The Lord God had sent his prophet Samuel out to anoint the one who would be king – and the young shepherd David was selected among all of Jesse’s sons – the one to be king of all God’s chosen people. And the Lord had been with David on the battlefield as he stood before the giant warrior Goliath. The Lord had stayed with David when he was a wanted man on the run from the murderous hand of King Saul. The Lord had guided David as be took on the mantle of leadership and had united the 12 tribes of Jacob into one nation. And now David was king.
With the help of God, David was living the dream, residing in Jerusalem in a palace with the finest of cedar and appointments. Meanwhile the ark of the Covenant, that great symbol of God with his people, dwelled in a tent – as it has since the days of the Exodus in the desert of the Sinai. I suspect it is from gratitude David cries out in dismay: “”Here I am living in a house of cedar, while the ark of God dwells in a tent!” And now David wants to build a dream. His great dream is to build a house for the Lord to dwell. But God’s dreams are different and He is still building His “dream:”
The LORD also reveals… that he will establish a house for you… I will raise up your heir after you, …and I will make his kingdom firm… Your house and your kingdom shall endure forever before me; your throne shall stand firm forever.”
God’s dreams were greater than King David could imagine – a kingdom of covenant people that would endure forever.
Many years ago I was asked to read to a class of first graders in the parish school. It was the last few days before Christmas break. I was told that I could choose my own book to read – having no particular experience in 1st grade children’s books, I opted for the teacher’s recommendation. It was a wonderful little selection: Barbara Helen Berger’s book The Donkey’s Dream. King David has dreams, we have dreams, and so it seems even does a donkey.
He was just an ordinary donkey, doing ordinary donkey things – in this case serving as transportation for people journeying. In the still of the night passage, as the donkey ambles along he dreams because he senses that he is a part of something grand and universal in scale. In the book’s manuscript-like illustrations, we see that he is carrying a luminous city, with many gates and towers. Next, we see on his back a sailing ship, rocking on the sea like a cradle, and then a flowing fountain, and then a rose. Finally we see what he has been carrying all along – a pregnant woman in a blue robe spotted with stars. On his back is the Virgin Mary traveling to Bethlehem on the night she gave birth. It is a marvelous book and is a brilliant and subtle work of theology as it allows simple images to tell us more than words can convey about what Christmas signifies – about the dreams of God. That the grandeur of God, the kingdom of heaven, the fountain of all holiness, the rose of Jesse’s lineage will be the child from the woman Mary, coming to live among us as one of us.
The dream of God, first expressed in His promise to David (Your house and your kingdom shall endure forever), began to take form in the still of the night when the Archangel Gabriel spoke the words of God’s dream:
“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.”
For that kingdom to have no end, we all have our part to do. The donkey did what was his to do. King David too. And Mary’s desire to fulfill God’s dream is so beautifully expressed in her words: “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord. May it be done to me according to your word.”
The dream is still a work-in-progress. The dream of God broke into our world on a Christmas long ago when the King of King and Lord of Lords was born among us. Not in a temple apart, but among us in the everyday. The dream of God continues to take form in our time as God gathers a people onto Himself that becomes the Body of Christ, the Kingdom of God here on earth – in the everyday.
This day, when you come to receive the Eucharist, know that you are the temple that David desired but could not imagine. We are the temple made of living stones, called to give glory to God at all times – and in the Eucharist to make a dwelling place for the Lord. Let our “Amen” echo Mary’s words: “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord. May it be done to me according to your word.”
Let the Word of God come to you in the extraordinary days of life like King David; in the very ordinary days like Mary quietly raising her son. The Word of God that beckons to us as people to live out the dreams of God; to do our part in building kingdom that has no end. To do what is ours to do.
May the dream of God be built within our lives.