Saturday, January 04, 2014
God's Dwelling Place
God’s Dwelling Place
Christmas is a way of life, not just a date on the calendar, or a season of twelve days duration. Christmas marks that moment in sacred history where God makes Love flesh and blood in human form. He was born to Mary and his name was “Jesus”, which means literally, “Savior”. He grew and waxed strong in the ways of God.
The Incarnation or the making flesh of God in this Holy Child is a threat to the Powers and Principalities. In today’s Gospel we’re told that an angel appeared to Joseph in a dream and said “Take the child and his mother and flee into Egypt and do not return until I tell you.” This was to avoid the slaughter of the Innocents which is told to us in the intervening verses not included in today’s Gospel reading. Yes, Herod ordered the wholesale slaughter of all male children under two years of age, when he realized that the Wise Men had tricked him and did not tell him where this “King” was born. How often the Powers and Principalities visit human cruelty upon the Innocents.
This was also to fulfill yet another prophecy from the Book of the Prophet Hosea in the first verse of the eleventh chapter; “When Israel was I child, I loved him, and out of Egypt I called my son.” This word “Israel” literally is a reference to the patriarch Jacob and those who followed him, called together to serve God throughout sacred history. The word Israel literally means “the one who struggles with God or who prevails in the struggle with God”.
So we come to Twelfth Night, the conclusion of the season of Christmas and prepare for Epiphany or that season where we make manifest the Love of God to the whole world. This is why the Kings from the East come to worship him and bring their gifts to the Christ Child, so that the whole world might see him.
How many gifts are given at Christmas. Lots and lots of gifts. Yet, we, the church are not so much focused on the kinds of gifts a commercialized and consumer driven economy buys into.
The kinds of gifts we focus on are of course the gift of the Child who was not only born for us, but also died for us and then rose again in a glorious resurrection for the sake of all sinners in all the world.
The gifts we are given are forgiveness, reconciliation, love and eternal life. These great words are a challenge to us to live in a way that makes manifest the wondrous gifts of God. Forgiveness work, reconciliation work and love work are life long gifts that require all our hearts and minds and souls and strength in order to “enflesh” the Word of God. Together these gifts lead us unto eternal life both now and in the world to come.
We are in fact Baptized into these gifts. In Pauline theology it is said that we die to the old way of living, for as in Adam all is death, so too we are born anew to the living power of Jesus the Christ until all sin and all death is conquered.
Thus the church is born, that wonderful and sacred mystery in which all of us are included and invited to participate. And that’s the Christmas we are invited into this year and every year, and in every day of our lives.
We are invited every single week to these holy places. It is a joy to be here. For as the Psalmist says;
“How dear to me is your dwelling, My soul has a desire and longing for the courts of the LORD; my heart and my flesh rejoice in the living God. For one day in your courts is better than a thousand in my own room, *and to stand at the threshold of the house of my God than to dwell in the tents of the wicked.”
This is where I am reminded how to live. This is where Jesus fills us as Paul says with “every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places.” Here I learn to order my life biblically, as for instance the Prophet Jeremiah reminds us to live in today’s first reading;
"Save, O LORD, your people,
the remnant of Israel."
See, I am going to gather them from the farthest parts of the earth,
among them the blind and the lame, those with child and
those in labor, together;
a great company, they shall return here.
With weeping they shall come,
Then shall the young women rejoice in the dance,
and the young men and the old shall be merry.
I will turn their mourning into joy,
I will comfort them, and give them gladness for sorrow.
You see how wonderful this biblical life is when lived faithfully.
So then whether it is the gift of the life of Jesus, the gift of the holy writings, or the gift of the church itself, we have been lavished with the great generosity of God and God’s people through the generations. We are called to be a sign of hope to those in need and to make no distinction based on race, ethnicity, class, gender or even orientation. For we are all one in Jesus Christ our Lord as Blessed Paul the Apostle often says.
That brings us to this new day, this new calendar year, and this beautiful church in this particular time and place. As your bridge priest I must tell you that this generosity encourages us to be generous likewise and to make provision for the church in our day and in the days and years to come.
Therefore I ask you to pray about your generosity and to speak to your loved ones about your love for this place, where we learn so much and where God’s life is made flesh and blood not only in Jesus but in the lives of the people who love Jesus in and from this place.
Yes, I ask you to pray about this. Throughout our lives, Cindy and I have looked at each other and had that conversation. What would it take for us to give 10% of our income to the church. It would take a lot. So we ask ourselves, what can we give practically speaking in our efforts to work our way toward the biblical standard of giving. Can we give 5%, 6%, 7%? and so on as we move our way toward obedience to make provision for God’s Church?
This is God’s work and God’s work is worth doing well. This is Christmas. These are the gifts of God for the people of God. And we return to God of the generosity God has given to us. We give of our time, our talent, we give of our wealth or our poverty...and we give generously and cheerfully.
This is a good church. You are a good people. You are quite the viable congregation and, by rights, you should unquestionably be a full time ministry with a full time priest.
That is why at this point, I would like to ask you to pray about these things and to ponder them in your hearts, because this is Christmas. Christmas is a good way to live. This is the way to live into the eternal life Jesus was born to live, so that we too may live that way.
There you are my friends; a few thoughts to ponder and to pray about as we greet this new year together.
In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.