Isaiah 61:10-62:3 Psalm 147:13-21 Galatians 3:23-25; 4:4-7 John 1:1-18
Tabernacling … and regifting
It is a huge leap from baby Jesus in the manger to “in the beginning was the Word. It has been said that might be a season of twelve days because we need that long to make sense of God who comes to us in the form of a person in a manger. I suspect that I am not alone in thinking that it will take much longer than twelve days for to get my head around “Lord” in a feed trough. So far, it has been a lifetime’s work.
And just when we might decide to dwell in the mystery of “God with us,” Immanuel, in Bethlehem, we discover the Gospel of John. John tells us nothing about mangers or shepherds or Bethlehem, Mary, and Joseph. All of a sudden, or so it seems, we are transported back to before the beginning of time – and we find that Jesus was there. Before there was time, before there was “Earth,” before we had ancestors, there was Jesus with God. What a wonderful mystery!
It is still hard to imagine, isn’t it? So we keep reading.
This Word, Immanuel, God with us before we were, came to live among us. Not only in our individual hearts – the verbs here are plural – the Word came to “tabernacle” with us. You remember the idea of tabernacling in from Jesus’ transfiguration on the mountain. Our beloved Peter, upon seeing Jesus and Moses and Elijah, says, “let’s tabernacle here!” Let’s stay here in a big tent, and stay long enough that it is not a vacation or a visit but this place becomes our dwelling place. Let’s dwell here.
The tabernacle in the Old Testament was the local presence [hangout] of God. (http://www.sermonsfromseattle.com/series_b_the_word_became_flesh.htm) Thanks to “Sermons from Seattle” for these words and the following imagery. The tabernacle was 75 feet wide and 150 feet high. (What size is this church building? About the same, maybe.) Imagine a tent that big. At the far end of the tent
“was the Holy of Holies, a room separated by a heavy curtain. (I think of a grand theater curtain, lined with embroidered pomegranates.) Behind that heavy curtain was the Ark of the Covenant, a special holy box. It was a big box, about 45 inches long, by 27” by 27.” Inside that Ark or box were the Ten Commandments and maybe a bit of manna. Now, this was the most sacred place where God lived: in the tabernacle, in the Holy of Holies, in the Ark, and most sacredly, in the Ten Commandments.”
Not anymore. With Jesus’ birth in Bethlehem, the place to see the living God is in the person, the flesh, the body, the heart, the mind, of Jesus. To find the best image of God, do not look to the stars. Or to waterfalls. Or rainbows, or whatever other, truly magnificent evidences of God that we may find. Evidences of God are found in many magnificent – grand or minute – things, but to really find God, to visit the place God dwells, God is to be found in the person of Jesus. In Jesus is where God lives. And that is not a stationary, unmoving place, is it?
At this point, we might say: “thanks be to God for Mary, Joseph, Bethlehem, and baby Jesus in the manger.” John is way too complicated.
You know by now that there is good news and more good news. God is in the stars, as maker and creator of an ongoing creation. God is not finished with us yet – with the stars, with the planets, and with us. God is found in the miracle of every infant, every baby, every person. Maybe that is why God came to us as a baby: so that we could see the miracle, recognize the miracle, and throughout our lives – not in just twelve days – come to see the miracle of God incarnate, Immanuel, Jesus.
In the meantime, that baby needs a minimum of food, clothing, and shelter.
How do we feed Jesus?
By caring “for the least of these;” by feeding the hungry with good food, food being produce and the creations that God has given us, and feeding spiritual hunger with the word and truth of God.
By keeping the word/Word of God alive in ourselves and in our corporate body by reading, studying, and meditating on God’s Holy Scriptures.
We feed the entirety of our personhood by feeding on that which God has given us.
How do we clothe Jesus?
By clothing the naked in garments made of fiber and spiritual garments made by the body of Christ.
How do we shelter Jesus?
By welcoming Jesus into our homes – this home of St. Peter’s and the holy homes that have nothing to do with this building. We shelter Jesus by saying “welcome” over and over again, until all feel at home “tabernacle-ing” with Jesus.
When we have fed, clothed, and sheltered Jesus, Immanuel, we have something else to do with our precious gift. We “re-gift” Jesus into the world. The “regifting” of Jesus has nothing to do with our gift being the wrong size, the wrong shape, or something unwanted. This gift that we have harbored, dwelled with, must be shared,
Because a light cannot be hidden.
Because we find so much joy in dwelling with this gift that we could not possible keep it to ourselves.
Because this gift is light and grace and truth, and how would we live into that fullness all on our own? We do not. We cannot not.
This Christmas and beyond, in what we say and do and live, we give Jesus to the world, that the world might become God’s kingdom.
And although in the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God and the Word was God,
I invite you back to manger,
Because maybe we can make it to the manger,
To meet the Christ-child,
To pick him up and talk with him and sing with him and hold him and stay there for a moment,
And then, like a joyful parent or relative or neighbor and friend,
We share Jesus,
Because we know God and hold God and dwell with God,
We share God with the world.
Merry Christmas! The Lord is come!