Saturday, January 9, 2021

The First Sunday after the Epiphany (Epiphany 1)

Luke 2:41-52; Romans 12:1-5; 1 Kings 8:6-13
In the Name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit.
The glory of the LORD is something to behold – or not. What I mean is that the glory of the LORD, sometimes referred to as His shekinah glory, which means His dwelling or His presence, is at once beautiful, awesome, and comforting, and also terrifying and deadly to unholy and sinful men. No one has ever seen God, save one – whom we’ll talk about shortly – but many have seen His glory, or at least some veiled manifestation of His glory, and by His grace and mercy lived to tell about it.
In a very real sense, the LORD is presence. The LORD is being. This was the Name He gave to Moses from the burning bush to give to the people of Israel: Tell them, “I AM has sent me to you.” The LORD is a personal God. He is a Creator who is personally invested in His creation. He is a Father who shares something of Himself with His children and loves them as His own person and being. He created men to know Him, to receive from Him, to share with Him, to commune in Him: “I will be your God and you will be my people.” Our First Parents enjoyed something of this, a shadow, in paradise before the fall, but their sin, our sin, has destroyed our relationship with our Creator making it impossible for the LORD to dwell among us in unveiled glory lest His glory destroy us.
Still, He is our God. He is our Father. He is love, and He loves His children. He wants to be near us, present among us, dwelling in our midst. In various mediating ways the LORD dwelt in the midst of His people. The LORD lead His people out of Egypt in a pillar of cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night. In the wilderness, the LORD encamped in the midst of His people in the Most Holy Place of the Tabernacle. The LORD gave Moses precise and elaborate instructions concerning the construction of the Tabernacle that the people should learn the nature of His holiness and righteousness and the seriousness of their sin. Still, it does not diminish the Tabernacle to say that the glorious presence of the LORD dwelt in a tent of flesh, foreshadowing the incarnation of the glory of the LORD Jesus.
“How will this be, since I am a virgin,” Mary asked. “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you;” answered Gabriel, “therefore the child to be born will be called holy—the Son of God.” As she heard this Word of the LORD she conceived, and the glory of the LORD that once dwelt in a tent of flesh became flesh in Mary’s womb, “and we have seen His glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.”
The LORD designed the Tabernacle and commanded Moses to build it that He might dwell in the midst of His people. David desired to build a house of his own design for the LORD, but having blood on his hands he was not permitted to and his son Solomon built a temple for the LORD after his father’s death. After placing the Ark of the Covenant in the Most Holy Place in the temple, the glory of the LORD filled the chamber and “the priests could not stand to minister because of the cloud, for the glory of the LORD filled the house of the LORD.” Within the temple, the LORD dwelt among His people. There they made their sacrifices and the High Priest sprinkled the sacrificial blood upon the Mercy Seat of the Ark of the Covenant and the LORD looked away from the sins of men until He would make the sacrifice of Himself that would take away the sins of the world. The temple would be destroyed, twice, the Ark of the Covenant lost, but the glory of the LORD would still dwell in the midst of His people.
What happened when Mary conceived? The Word became flesh and the glory of the LORD took up residence once again in a tent of flesh. The Ark of the Covenant was long gone, but a young virgin became the Tabernacle and Her infant Son the Most Holy Place and the true Ark of the Covenant those former things foreshadowed. “The Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen His glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.”He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature.” “No one has ever seen God; the only begotten Son of God, who is at the Father's side, He has made Him known.” “The glory of God in the face of Jesus.”
Jesus proclaimed that the kingdom of God was in the midst of His people, for wherever Jesus was, there was the dwelling place of the glory of the LORD made visible and physical, approachable and tangible. In Jesus, God came to those who could not come to them. He came in meekness and humility, grace, mercy, and love. When the glory of the LORD took on the flesh of man in Mary’s womb, He no longer resided in a house made by human hands. And when the infant Jesus was presented in the temple forty days after His birth in fulfillment of the Law, the glory of the LORD returned to the temple in the person of Jesus. The same is true with His Passover visit as a young boy, which we remember and celebrate this day.
Today’s Gospel text is read here at the beginning of the Epiphany Season for, as the Christmas Gospels proclaimed that God became Man, so the Epiphany Gospels proclaim that the Man Jesus is God. On this First Sunday after the Epiphany of our Lord we hear the first recorded words of Jesus, “Why were you looking for me? Did you not know that I must be in my Father's house?” or “about my Father’s business” as the KJV has it. Our young Lord, true man, subject to Mary and Joseph, reveals Himself also to be true God, whose father is not Joseph but the Almighty Father in heaven. His Father’s business will be to lay down His own sinless life as a sacrifice for the sin of all men and to restore the broken relationship between God and His most beloved creatures, man. Jesus is the spotless Lamb of God’s offering who will be consumed in His Father’s wrath against our sin on the altar of His cross outside the temple and the walls of Jerusalem. It was Passover, and Jesus the Passover Lamb of God. Even as He was found by his parents after three days, so He would later rise from the dead on the third day that the favor of God might rest also upon us. It is by these mercies of God that we present our bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God through Christ.
Jesus is the glory of the LORD in human flesh that we may see Him, hear Him, handle Him, and receive Him into ourselves. The Spirit of the LORD dwells in Jesus and in we who are baptized into Him. He is Jacob’s Ladder bridging heaven and earth, God and man, and our mediator and intercessor in and through whom we have access to the Father now and forevermore. “Lord, visit Thou our souls and teach us by Thy grace each dim revealing of Thyself with loving awe to trace. Till we behold Thy face and know as we are known Thee, Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, coequal three in one.”
In the + Name of Jesus. Amen.

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