Wednesday, December 11, 2019

Advent Evening Prayer - Week of Populus Zion (Advent 2)

Luke 1:26-45; 2 Samuel 7:4-17

In the Name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit.
You know the story of the Three Little Pigs? The first little pig built his house of straw. The second little pig built his house of sticks. The third little pig built his house of bricks. Well, as the story goes, the first two little pigs didn’t fare so well and the Big Bad Wolf blew their houses in. The third little pig fared better; the Big Bad Wolf was unable to blow down his house of bricks. Well, that’s a fairy tale. In reality we’re not dealing with little pigs and big bad wolves, but we’re dealing with the souls of men and a dragon, indeed, with Satan, the enemy of both men and God. And, as the Psalmist says, “Unless the Lord builds the house, those who build it labor in vain.”
David wanted to build a house for the LORD, but the LORD was having none of it. Surely David had good intentions, but it’s also likely that being king was going to his head a bit, especially after the LORD had blessed Him with victory over his enemies in battle. Relaxing in peace and rest in his palace, David began to feel sorry for the LORD saying, “See now, I dwell in a house of cedar, but the ark of God dwells in a tent.” The ark of God was the Ark of the Covenant, the glorious presence of the LORD amongst His people, and the tent was the Tabernacle made of animal hides and wooden poles. How thoughtful and loving of David, right?
Well, maybe not so much. The LORD sent the king a corrective through His prophet Nathan saying, “You’re going to build a house for me to dwell in? I haven’t lived in a house since the day I delivered the people of Israel out of Egypt to this day, but I have been moving about in a tent for my dwelling wherever My people did go. Did I ever speak a word asking, ‘Why have you not built me a house of cedar?’” Then the LORD reminded David of his humble origins and who had made Him king and blessed him with success and victory saying, “I took you from the pasture that you should be prince over my people. And I have been with you wherever you went. I have cut off all your enemies from before you. And I will make your name great and I will give you rest from your enemies. Moreover, I will make for you a house. And, when you are dead and buried, I will raise up your offspring and I will establish His kingdom. He shall build a house for My Name, and I will establish the throne of His kingdom forever.”
We are not so unlike David. When things are going well, we are tempted to take credit ourselves and to forget our God who has been with us through the good and the bad, through times of plenty and times of lean. Gradually, often imperceptibly, we slip from humility into pride, from faithfulness to self-righteousness and idolatry. Like the man the LORD blessed with a bountiful harvest, we put our trust in our labor and gain, tear down our barns and build bigger ones without thankfulness to God or mercy and compassion toward our neighbor. Moreover, we are deceived into believing that material and worldly things are what matter and truly last, while we let the spiritual and truly needful things slip through our fingers. This our enemy Satan delights in just as the big bad wolf delighted in little pig’s trust in their houses of straw and sticks.
The LORD doesn’t need a house to live in, but we do. Let us give thanks to the LORD for the roofs over our heads, for the clothing on our backs, and for the food on our tables, for life and breath and health and family and all things. The LORD doesn’t need a house to live in, but He loves to be with His people and dwell with them. Because of our sin we could not bear to be in His holy presence and to behold His glory, for it would consume us. Therefore the LORD gave His Word to Moses to construct the Tabernacle, a tent, made of animal hides, that He might dwell among them and go with them with the promise that He would one day build them a house and settle them in their own land. But, that promised house was not a palace, or even a nation, but it was a person, a descendant of David, even Jesus the Christ, our Lord and King: “I will be to Him a Father, and He shall be to Me a Son.” He will bear My people’s iniquity and I will discipline Him with the rod and stripes of men, Jesus’ scourging, crucifixion, and death, but My steadfast love will not depart from Him.
God built His house in Mary’s virgin womb: “The Word became flesh and made His dwelling amongst us.” The Greek word ἐσκήνωσεν, translated here as made His dwelling, literally means tented, or tabernacled. The incarnation of the Son of God in the Virgin’s womb is foreshadowed by the LORD’s dwelling amongst His people in the tent of the Tabernacle, only the tent is not animal hides but the flesh and blood body of Jesus. Any house of cedar, or concrete and steel for that matter, built by the hands of men will fall, but the house built by God will endure forever, an everlasting house and kingdom.
That is what we celebrate at Christmas: The LORD has built us a house that will endure forever. Jesus Christ is the fulfillment of Eden, the house of Adam and Eve in the Garden, of the Tabernacle in the wilderness and of the Temple in Jerusalem, of the Promised Land of milk and honey in Canaan, of the Holy City and Israel and her kings. The LORD has built a house for His people in which they may rest and dwell secure forever. That House is Jesus, and the Church is His body. The font is Her virgin womb from which are born children of God and at the altar do we commune with our Bridegroom and Lord Jesus as He feeds us with His body and blood. And, while in the earthly tent of our bodies we groan and struggle with sin, sorrow, disease, and death, we do not lose hope but we are encouraged and we lift up our heads, For we know that if the tent that is our earthly home is destroyed, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens.”
In the + Name of Jesus. Amen.

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