Inauspicious Beginnings

After the king was settled in his palace and the Lord had given him rest from all his enemies around him, he said to Nathan the prophet, “Here I am, living in a house of cedar, while the ark of God remains in a tent.”

Nathan replied to the king, “Whatever you have in mind, go ahead and do it, for the Lord is with you.”

But that night the word of the Lord came to Nathan, saying:

“Go and tell my servant David, ‘This is what the Lord says: Are you the one to build me a house to dwell in? I have not dwelt in a house from the day I brought the Israelites up out of Egypt to this day. I have been moving from place to place with a tent as my dwelling. Wherever I have moved with all the Israelites, did I ever say to any of their rulers whom I commanded to shepherd my people Israel, “Why have you not built me a house of cedar?”’

“Now then, tell my servant David, ‘This is what the Lord Almighty says: I took you from the pasture, from tending the flock, and appointed you ruler over my people Israel. I have been with you wherever you have gone, and I have cut off all your enemies from before you. Now I will make your name great, like the names of the greatest men on earth. And I will provide a place for my people Israel and will plant them so that they can have a home of their own and no longer be disturbed. Wicked people will not oppress them anymore, as they did at the beginning and have done ever since the time I appointed leaders over my people Israel. I will also give you rest from all your enemies.

“‘The Lord declares to you that the Lord himself will establish a house for you: [. . .] Your house and your kingdom will endure forever before me; your throne will be established forever.’” (2 Samuel 7:1–11, 16 NIV)

“Ah, there it is. My house, at good old Cleveland Street. How could I ever forget it?”

The narrator of A Christmas Story opens the 1983 film with this line and a shot of the home of young Ralphie, the main character. “We Wish You a Merry Christmas” fades into background music as viewers witness a neighborhood of snow, children running and playing, but most importantly, Ralphie’s childhood home.

This home, now known as The Christmas Story House, actually exists and is nestled away in a neighborhood in Cleveland, Ohio. In 2006, the house was opened to the public as an official tourist attraction and has since been a destination for fans of the movie.

It’s me. I’m one of those fans.

This past summer, my family and I had the chance to spend a morning touring this home that has been imprinted on my mind and heart since I was a kid watching 24-hour reruns of the movie on cable, starting Christmas Eve and going through Christmas Day.

Who would’ve thought that a movie about a kid who just wants one thing for Christmas – and who feels like everyone is against him getting that gift – would take on such a following of its own that people come from all over to take a picture in a pink Easter bunny costume to say they’ve been there, done that, and got the suit?

This is a movie that started with so many people saying “No;” with so many not believing it could actually be successful; with the owner of the home initially saying “No” to using it to film. A movie with inauspicious beginnings.

The Bible is full of stories of ordinary humans with inauspicious beginnings being invited by God to be a part of something bigger – to be invited into God’s story and play a role in writing this story that is told for generations to come.

King David was an ordinary human. A shepherd boy who was plucked by God from the field through the obedience and partnership of Samuel; he was a shepherd with inauspicious beginnings who would eventually be a shepherd to God’s people. David had his failures, a massive one to be clear, but yet the house that would be built for David would be a royal house. Not an actual, physical house as he once thought, but one that would begin with him and never end. A place the Son of David would reign forever.

This Advent season, we celebrate the King who has come and who will come again. The one who reigns forever. The one who doesn’t need a physical house to dwell in, but the one, who even in his own auspicious beginnings as a babe, would be the Good Shepherd to you and me.

April Wahl is the middle school director at Century Baptist Church in Bismarck, North Dakota. She will also serve as one of the morning devotional leaders at the 2024 Triennial.