Wednesday, December 25, 2013

The Christmas Presence

In the beginning, God was here, happy to just be with us. His creation was so good and he seemed to enjoy spending time with the piece of it that was specifically made in his image. But then man decided that he thought he could find a better god in himself, then when that failed in thousands of other “deities” throughout the millennia. Since God is a righteous and jealous God, he couldn’t just live here with people who were pushing him away. So he withdrew his presence from us but still kept a close watch over his prize creation.
Yet he was not content for it to stay that way. Being jealous for his people, He was determined to draw them back to himself so he could once again live among them. So He called out a people to be his own from among the nations and set them apart. He delivered them from incredible bondage by the mighty power of his hand and he made a covenant with them. He appeared in a huge storm cloud over the mountain with thunder and lightening and He gave them the law so they became the first people on earth to know exactly what God expected. Thus his people grew to know him like no other people since the beginning. Then, when they had agreed to abide by the covenant and make themselves a holy people, he told them to make him a special tent so he could come and live among them, almost like in the beginning. This tent was beautiful. It was constructed generous portions of fine gold, precious metals and fabric, every piece of which was a gift from the people who wanted to contribute to the construction of this new dwelling place of God. And so, through a system of blood shed for sin, separation by a veil and special intermediaries called priests, God was once again able to come and live among his people. His cloud came and filled the tent and his fire was seen burning in it every night. Yet it was not like the beginning because of the degrees of separation between him and his people. Especially when the people forgot the covenant and began sinning once again. Then God’s presence would lift from among them because they clearly did not want to live with Him. Along with it, would go his protection and provision, and the people would suffer.
Eventually, through many ups and downs, God brought his people into the land that he had promised them and established them in it largely by the hand of the mighty and obedient hand of King David, the “man after God’s own heart.” He wanted to build God a house so he wouldn’t have to live in a tent anymore, but God said, “No, But I will build you a house and your dynasty will last forever” So instead, his son built God a house which was one of the most beautiful buildings ever seen and God came and lived in the house which they called the temple and his presence was with his people there in Jerusalem. Yet there was a problem, the people still had rebellious hearts and they soon turned away from God once again. It was not long before it got so bad, that God had to remove both his people and his presence from the land in hopes of drawing them back to himself a few decades later.
It was around that time that the prophets wrote about a day when God would mend the core problem and give men new hearts to replace their rebellious ones. Only then could He hope to live among them forever. So although he brought his people back into their land and they rebuilt the temple there, that was not his final plan. Rather, they were to wait for one who was to come and change them from the inside.
So finally, on the chosen day, God came to earth; but this time, He’s not in a storm cloud with thunder and lightning, He’s not in a mysterious cloud living in a tent separated from his people, but rather in the form of a baby like one of our own. He so desired to just be with us, that he was willing to come right down to our level and be one of us. From there he went on to show us what kind of an abundant life we could be living with him as our master. He did the work that it took to give us new hearts, to the point of shedding his own blood. He walked with us stride for stride and being himself the cornerstone, he set the standard for the foundation stones of the apostles and prophets, and thus, the basis for a new building in which his presence could dwell among us. This would be the house he promised to David, but this house was not made from mere cloth, and skins; or even stones and cedar like the temple building. This time, his house is known as the church, its structure is the people of God who, together form the new dwelling place of the almighty right here on earth. It is not made from gifts of Gold or precious metals, but rather people who offer themselves willingly because they want to be a part of the house where they can invite people in to come and get to know the God who not only made them, but loves them more deeply than they can imagine.