30 December 2007 at
In the name of + Jesus. Amen.
The Creator of the universe doesn’t need a house to live in. He doesn’t need to dwell in a body of flesh and bones. He is not obligated to live in the prison of space and time, like we are. The cartoonist lives outside of his drawings. The software programmer lives apart from his instructions to the computer. The sculptor lives beyond the block of marble he transforms into something beautiful.
Human imagination has long wondered what it would be like for an author to step inside of his own story, or a painter to suddenly find himself stuck on his own canvass, or a computer gamer to find himself trapped in a video world with fantasy weapons, animated monsters, and the looming threat of “game over.”
And yet, we have just celebrated the incarnation and birth of God into the world He created from nothing. Our God is not merely a figment of our imagination, like a genie that lives inside a lamp, or a spirit that dwells in a stone idol. For our God, the eternal God, the Triune God, is the One who has always been, who created all matter, and who set time itself into motion “in the beginning.” And yet, according to His plan to repair the damage we have done to His creation, He humbles Himself to step inside His creation, to enrobe Himself with flesh and to bind Himself to time. He meets us where we are in order to rescue us.
In our Old Testament lesson, King David is upset that God dwells in a tent while the king lives in a palace. He wants to surround the Lord’s Presence among the people with dignity and beauty – and God tells the prophet Nathan to express His approval of David’s desire.
For ugliness is of the devil. Beauty is of God. Ugliness results from chaos, breakdown, and violence, while beauty is the result of order, building up, and peace. Beauty inspires and calls us to cry out to our Creator. Furthermore, as the people of
And yet, the real House of the Lord is the
Jesus Christ is this
Though God is everywhere, like the radio waves and television radiation that bombard our bodies 24 hours a day, we only receive His gifts, hear Him, see Him, experience Him when He chooses to reveal Himself to us in space and time – in the same way that without an antenna and a receiver, radio and TV signals are part of the unrevealed “all things invisible” as opposed to the revelation of the “visible.”
By His grace, God becomes visible, He is able to speak to us, He is able to be heard, He is able to be understood, and He has wonderful news for us!
Notice how God emphasizes His Real Presence in space and time in our Gospel. First, we are in the holy city of
Mary is herself a temple, for God was conceived and dwelt for nine months within her body. Her flesh was genetically transmitted to her Son, her milk nursed God, and her maternal protection gave our Lord Jesus a safe home in which to dwell with mankind.
God and the fleshly temple from which He came venture to the Temple of Jerusalem, the place where God dwells, where God forgives sins by means of sacrificial acts carried out by the priesthood. And there is another temple of sorts – a prophet in whose body the Word of God dwells. And this Word uttered by Simeon declares that the boy Jesus is “salvation” in the flesh. Another of the Lord’s “temples,” the prophetess Anna, is also there to “give thanks to the Lord” and to speak to those who came to the temple where the Real Presence of the Lord was to be found.
“And the Child grew and became strong in spirit, filled with wisdom. and the grace of God was upon Him.” For this Christ Child, this Emmanuel, this God whose mother calls Him her Savior is where God dwells in space and time for His people.
Mankind can now look upon the face of God and live. Mankind can now make statues and paint pictures of God and not be committing idolatry. Mankind can hear God speak, because God has a mouth. Mankind can feel the healing and forgiving touch of God, because God has hands. Mankind can look into the eyes of God and see that God looks back at Him – not with vindictive eyes of wrath, but with gentle eyes of mercy.
But the dwelling of God doesn’t stop with the incarnation of Jesus. For God doesn’t merely want to look at us, speak to us, and touch us – as wonderful and mysterious as that is. He wants us to partake in His divine nature. He wants to become part of us – not in a symbolic way, not in a sentimental way, but in the way of physical communion. God wants every person – designed in His image – to be a
We baptized Christians can pray “Our Father” and mean it in a real sense. God isn’t a symbolic Father, God is not a metaphor, God is not some philosophical construction or faraway cosmic force, but rather He dwells with us, tabernacles with us, temples with us. He is as real as the baptismal water that pours over our heads, water that has been united by God’s Word to become a holy water, water that is a
God dwells with us in His eternal Word that is proclaimed by His preachers, a Word that is miraculously templed within human language. God dwells with us when He uses His ministers to speak forgiveness to us. And He dwells with us, lives in our bodies which have become a physical
And though our senses see only the flimsy tent of our bodies, only the ragged, sin-drenched canvas of our tainted flesh, the Lord God gives His promise that we are being transformed stone by stone into a living
And as sons, as heirs, the kingdom belongs to us – not by conquest or by our purchase of it, but by the free gift of God’s grace. For we are indeed heirs! For “when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, that we might receive adoption as sons.” And, as
No, God doesn’t need to live in a house – neither a palace of gold nor in a body of flesh – but he freely chooses to do so. God doesn’t need to come in the humble forms of water, bread and wine, and human speech – and yet this is just what He does. He comes to save you, to redeem you, to dwell in and with you out of love, out of mercy, out of a burning desire to be at one, to be in communion, with you. He is not driven by our being lovable – for we know and confess the truth that we are not. But rather, He loves us because He is love. And greater love has no man than this: that He would die for His friends. And He who dies among us, lives among us, dwells in us, and works through us.
“The body of God’s Lamb we eat, / A priestly food and priestly meat; / On sin-parched lips the chalice pours / His quenching blood / that life restores.” Amen.
In the name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit.” Amen.