Fourth Sunday in Advent, Dec. 18th, Year of Our + Lord 2011
A Dwelling Place for the Lord - 2nd Samuel 7:1-16 and Luke 1:26-38
The LORD is coming to visit His people. But where will He stay? What could be a proper dwelling place for the LORD God? How could any of us possibly build a good enough house that the Creator should deign to dwell in it?
Speaking of preparing a place for an important guest, we’re finishing a project at our house. The furniture is covered, spackle is up, paint is purchased. Tomorrow evening and Tuesday, primero Dios, we sand, prime and paint, so that Wednesday we can put the room together. You see, our son Jeremy is coming home for Christmas, and he is bringing a friend. So we need to prepare a room, to make a proper space for our guest. Domestic life and it’s twists and turns being what they are, the available room was in rough shape, lots of nail holes in the walls, no bed, just four dinged up walls and a dresser, not good enough for our guest. And so a fancy, queen sized extra tall air mattress was purchased at Costco; we hope it’s comfortable, because it lets us use the room for multiple purposes. A paint color has been picked to fit with Shelee’s ideas for decorating. Now it’s time, the deadline is fast approaching, Jeremy and his friend are scheduled to arrive on Thursday. I don’t know about you, but deadlines are the only reason projects ever get done at our house. And it looks like we’ll make it, we will prepare a proper dwelling place for our special guest, just in time.
How much more did King David want to prepare a proper dwelling place for the LORD. David had known a great variety of accommodations. David had slept out under the stars with the sheep, probably hollowing out a depression in the ground for his hip, laying his head on a rock and covering up with a wool blanket. David had hidden in caves from the mad hatred of King Saul. Now, King David was living in a spacious cedar palace, the King over a united Israel. David has lived in humble surroundings, and in the very richest. Now, at the height of his fame and comfort, David realizes that while his surroundings had improved dramatically, the dwelling place of the LORD God Almighty was still a tent, the tabernacle, the tent-temple Moses had built centuries earlier. David feels guilty. How can this be, that I live in luxury, while the LORD lives in a tent? So King David resolves to fix the problem. He decides he will build a house, a proper dwelling place for the LORD.
Not so fast, David. The LORD says “No, I will make my own arrangements, thank you very much.” You see, King David is a man of war, the slayer of Goliath, and many others, a man called to violence. David’s warring wasn’t wrong, he was called to it by God, chosen to fight for and rule God’s people. David’s warring ways were not pleasant, but they were necessary, for the sake of Israel, for the sake of God’s salvation plan.
But the House of the LORD is a house of peace, a house of prayer for all nations, and so was to be built by David’s son, a man of peace. David is disappointed, unable to fulfill his desire to serve the LORD in this unique way, a disappointment for David which is very good news for us sinners. This God of Israel, stern and threatening, a God of war in many ways, is, in the end, truly the God of peace, the God who is love. The LORD only fights His battles and sends His people into war for one reason, to destroy the powers of evil and bring about peace in the end, for Israel, and for all who trust in the LORD. In fact, it is the LORD’s dwelling among us which makes our peace.
No David, you will not build a house for me, says the LORD. Instead, I will make a house for you! I will establish your kingdom forever. I will establish your house through a Son of yours, and He will prepare a house for my Name.
And the house the LORD prepares for His dwelling is different than the houses we build. We build houses for comfort, and for protection, because we must. As some of our newer residents are learning the hard way, even though our winter has been pretty mild so far, living in a tent isn’t much of an option in the MonDak. Living in harsh country calls for building a suitable house. We build houses to protect ourselves and our families from the cold, the wind, from rain and snow. and from bugs and vermin and thieves. We need protection, and we try to find it in the dwelling places we build for ourselves.
Not so with God. The LORD’s dwelling place is not for the LORD’s comfort or protection; it’s for ours. The LORD has no need to be protected, He lacks no comfortable thing. He is the creator and ruler of heaven and earth, every good thing comes from Him. He doesn’t need a safe, secure place to live, He is life itself, the source of all life. The first two dwelling places the LORD instructed His people to make for Him, the Tabernacle built by Moses, and the Temple built by Solomon, David’s son, were built to protect Israel from the presence of God. The Tabernacle and the Temple were the locations chosen by the LORD and built at His direction, where He would dwell with His people, in order to serve them with His Holiness, in order to accept their sacrifices and cleanse them of their sins.
In the Tabernacle and Temple the LORD’s room was the Holy of Holies, a room completely separated, to and from which no light passed, a room where the High Priest entered only once a year, on the Day of Atonement, to remove the sins of the people and restore their relationship with God. The Holy of Holies had to be totally apart, totally separate, so that the Holiness of God would not destroy the sinners who gathered there.
The Tabernacle and Temple served to foreshadow the final dwelling place of the LORD with mankind, which is revealed in our Gospel this morning, the final dwelling place of God with Man, in the flesh of the Virgin’s Son. The angel Gabriel from heaven came, to announce to Mary that she would tabernacle the LORD for nine months, that in her womb would be conceived the Son of the Most High, the LORD Himself, the only begotten Son of the Father, conceived by the power of the Holy Spirit, conceived completely apart from the will of man. Not by the desire of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but conceived and born of God, the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth.
David’s son Solomon, his immediate successor on the earthly throne of Israel, was a man of peace, relative to his father, at least. Solomon, whose name means peace, was chosen by God to build the House of the LORD, the Temple in Jerusalem that David wanted to build. But the true man of peace is not Solomon, but rather Jesus, for He is the Son of David who reigns on the throne of the New Israel, forever, the Son of David who came to bring the peace which passes all understanding, making peace between God and man, by the blood of His Cross.
The Son of God came and dwelt in human flesh in order to provide eternal protection and comfort to sinners, not so much protection and comfort from the cold and wind and thieves, although these and every other bad thing will be forever removed in heaven. First and foremost, however, Christ came to dwell in human flesh in order to provide us protection from the root of our problems, which is our sin. The Babe of Bethlehem came and swallowed up all our sin in His own body, bearing it all, paying the full price, receiving all our just punishment, so that His sacrifice on the Cross has broken the power of sin to threaten anyone who is in Christ.
That is the Good News of Christmas, that the dwelling place of God with men is in the flesh of Jesus Christ. Because of His sacrifice, we now have a dwelling place with God, a room in His heavenly house, a seat in His banquet hall, by the forgiveness of all our sins.
Jesus is still God in the flesh. His incarnation, His brotherhood with us humans continues, forever. In His flesh He died, to take away your sins. In His flesh, He rose, to show you the new life He has for you. And, even though He has ascended on high to prepare a place for you, He has not left you. His Spirit has been yours since your Baptism. His Word connects you to Him by creating faith in your heart. He even comes to feed you, to dwell within you by His Body and Blood, given and shed, yours to take and eat, take and drink, for the forgiveness of all your sins.
We are really looking forward to hosting the guest at our house over Christmas. Rejoice, highly favored ones, that is how God thinks of you, as guests He loves to welcome, through Jesus Christ.
God rejoices to welcome all who trust in His Son and give thanks for His dwelling among us.
God looks forward to every opportunity to come to you with blessings in Word, and in Sacrament.
The LORD looks forward to declaring to you again that your sins are forgiven, for Jesus’ sake.
And the LORD God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, looks forward to the day when He will welcome you into His glorious presence, free from sin, free from sorrow, full of life and light, forever and ever, Amen.
May the dwelling of the Lord fill your Christmas with peace and joy, Amen.