Dec. 20th, 2020 — homily on 2 Samuel 7:1-11, 16; Luke 1:26-38 by Pastor Galen Zook
Stuck at Home for Christmas
It’s probably no surprise that this year’s Coronavirus pandemic has inspired a number of musical parodies of the famous song “I’ll be home for Christmas.”
The original song, written from the perspective of a person longing to go home, says,
I’ll be home for Christmas You can count on me
Please have snow and mistletoe And presents by the tree
Christmas eve will find me Where the love light gleams
I’ll be home for Christmas
It seems, however, that the person might not actually be able to make it home for Christmas, because the last line of the song says, “I’ll be home for Christmas, If only in my dreams.”
This year, however, most of us find ourselves in the opposite situation — stuck inside our homes, and wishing we could be out and about, visiting our friends and family. And so one the 2020 versions of the song goes like this:
I’m dreaming tonight of the places I love Even more than I usually do
I don’t mean to hide but it’s Covid outside So I promise you
I’ll stay home for Christmas You can count on me
“Just say no” to mistletoe Watch Hallmark on TV
Christmas Eve will find me In my living room
I’ll stay home for Christmas And see you all on ZOOM
I know it’s hard to be stuck at home for Christmas. But I do want to thank you to everyone for doing your part in helping us to get past this pandemic. Thank you to those of you who are serving on the front lines. Thank you to everyone for wearing your masks, and social distancing and following CDC guidelines. If we all do our part we can move past this and hopefully next year we won’t have to be stuck at home for Christmas!
A House For God
Being at home even more than we usually are, we can probably relate to King David, who in 2 Samuel 7:1-11 was stuck at home as well. No, he wasn’t quarantining becaues of a global pandemic, but rather he was stuck at home because there simply wasn’t anywhere else he needed to be. Growing up, David had been a shepherd who spent his days roaming the fields with his sheep, composing lyrical poetry on his harp. Then he became a warrior, who traveled all around, fighting heroically in epic battles.
But now he is the king, and as such he finds himself settled in a palace made of cedar. I’m sure it was wonderful at first, but now it seems that he has become somewhat bored and restless.
And so one day King David is sitting at home in his palace, reclining on his La-Z-boy throne, perusing the schedule for Palace Entertainment Tonight, he looks out of the window of his palace and sees the temporary shelter that had served as the place of worship for the Israelites ever since they had come out of slavery in Egypt 400 years prior. Throughout all the years of the judges and the reign of King Saul, no one had seemingly thought to build a more permanent structure to serve as the dwelling place of God.
And so King David decides that he himself is going to build a house for God, and so he calls in the prophet Nathan to tell him.
But after Nathan goes and talks with God, Nathan comes back and delivers God’s response to David. Which is essentially “Thanks, but no thanks!” I’m paraphrasing here, but basically God says, “When have I ever asked you to build me a house? I like living in a tent. I like moving all about, moving in and around my people. I’m not going to be stuck in one place all the time — I’ve got a lot of stuff to do! So thanks for the thought, David, but you don’t need to build me a house” (see 2 Samuel 6-7).
And then God went on to say (I’m still paraphrasing here), “actually David, I’m going to build YOU a permanent house. I’m going to make a name for you. Your dynasty and your kingdom will last forever!” (see 2 Samuel 7:16).
You see, I think that what David had in mind was that he wanted to build a great monument — a permanent memorial to God. Most likely a stone temple high up on a mountain, so that no matter where you were, you could look, and far off in the distance you could see and be in awe of God’s glory. (And David’s reputation would have probably been greatly expanded through this as well!)
But this was not what God wanted. God wanted to be with the people, to live right in their midst, to move in and among them, as God has always done ever since the beginning of Creation, when the Spirit moved over the waters (Gen. 1:2), and in the Garden of Eden, when God walked and talked with Adam and Eve in the cool of the day (Gen. 3:8).
In this way, the tablernacle was the perfect symbol of God’s desire to be present and active and on the move with God’s people.
Not only that, but our God is an all-powerful God who cannot be contained or confined to a stone momument or a building! As God later said through the prophet Isaiah (I’m quoting here from the Message paraphase), “Heaven’s my throne, earth is my footstool. What sort of house could you build for me? What holiday spot reserve for me? I made all this! I own all this!”” (Isaiah 66:1-2 MSG).
Heaven is God’s throne and the earth is God’s footstool! What a vivid and profound image of God’s glory and power and majesty.
God contained in a Womb
It might feel shocking and suprising then, when we fast forward 1,000 years and see God — the almighty powerful God of universe — willingly take on human flesh, and come down to this earth in the form of a helpless baby, and enter into the confines of the womb of a teenage girl, accepting the limitations of a mortal human body, completely and utterly dependent upon his mother Mary for nourishment and to his earthly father Joseph and Mary for protection.
It’s astounding to see the God who could not be contained in a stone monument or temple, willingly confined in human flesh, born as a baby, wrapped in swaddling clothes, and laid in a manger.
A thirteenth century monk (known as John the Monk) said it this way,
Wonder! God is come among humanity; he who cannot be contained is contained in a womb; the timeless enters time, and great mystery: his conception is without seed, his emptying past telling! So great is this mystery! For God empties himself, takes flesh and is fashioned as a creature…”
Why would God do this? Why would an all-powerful God enter into this world and willingly take on the limitations of a human body? Why would a God who is not dependent on us for anything become a helpless baby, willingly dependent upon his mother and earthly father for provision, and nourishment and protection?
John 3:16 tells us — it is because of God’s great love for us. “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life.”
God loves us so much, and saw how desperate our human plight and condition was, that God became one of us, and made his home with us, in order to save us. Bound in human flesh, if only for a time, Christ showed us God’s boundless and eternal love for us.
At Home In Us
Through Christ, God fulfilled God’s purposes and God’s plans to be present with us. To move in and amongst us. Through Christ, God is with us — this is the meaning of the word Emmanuel — “God with us.” Jesus is God with us. God in the flesh.
And Christ desires to make his home in each and every one of us.
After God says through the prophet Isaiah, “Heaven’s my throne, earth is my footstool. What sort of house could you build for me?“ (Isaiah 66:1), God goes on to say, “But there is something I’m looking for: a person simple and plain, reverently responsive to what I say.” (Isaiah 66:2 MSG).
This is what God desires — more than stone temples or momorials or monuments. God desires to live inside of us.
In this way, the virgin Mary is a representation of what God desires of each and every one of us. Mary, who said “Here am I, the servant of the Lord; let it be with me according to your word” (Luke 1:38). This is what God desires of us — that we would open up our homes and our lives and allow Christ to live in us.
Staying at home this Christmas is a tremendous sacrifice for many of us. We wish we could be out and about, we want to gather with friends and family.
But the sacrifices we are making this Christmas because of the love we have for our friends and neighbors is just a small glimpse of the sacrifice God made for us in sending Jesus to make his home with us. To show us the way to God, and ultimately to give his life for us by dying on the cross.
And so this Christmas, as we’re staying at home in our living rooms, talking with our friends and family on Zoom, let us remember Christ’s sacrificial love for us. Let us be reminded of our God. who willingly entered into our world and into the confines of a womb, a God who took on the limitations of a fleshly, human body, because of God’s great love for us.
May we, like Mary, open our hearts and our homes to welcome Christ in. If we do, we may be stuck inside our homes this Christmas, but we will not be alone!