We gather today to worship the newborn king—Christ has been born but we don’t get to linger at the manger very long do we? It catches us off guard I think to move so quickly from Jesus birth to age 12! Wasn’t Christmas just yesterday?? Yes, it was!
But on the 1st Sunday of Christmas we always hear one of the three stories of Jesus childhood — the killing of the Holy Innocents and the Holy Family’s escape to Egypt, the presentation of Jesus at the temple and encountering Simeon and Anna, or todays passage about the young boy who along with his family travels to Jerusalem for the Feast of the Passover. We don’t dwell long with a newborn but we do continue to dwell with Jesus our Lord.
Dwell. That is the focus word for today as we close our series ‘The Inn: Housing the Holy.’ So let’s just review where the INN has taken us:
- 4 weeks ago we began by considering what we had to do to make room in our Inns that are very full, crowded, as well as who it is that we are being asked to house?
- We pictured the great table of God’s with all its abundance and proclaimed that there are enough seats for everyone! It’s NOT like the game of musical chairs where we scramble to get a seat because there are always more people than there are chairs.
- On the 3rd Sunday of Advent we considered how much is enough and John the Baptist gave us some very tangible ways in which to live: share your coat and food with those who do not have them. I gave out dollar bills that Sunday. I wonder how you shared them. Becky told me she gave the dollar to a man who was able to purchase a plate of cookies to eat along with the free cider he got at one of our trolley stops. It moved/humbled her…
- Last week we imagined being in the Inn and standing on our toes looking out the window and seeing God’s vision for creation and being called to prophesy along with the prophets and act on that vision for the world.
- Then almost as quickly as Advent arrived, it concluded with the long-awaited Messiah being born and the angels, shepherds and Mary proclaiming that on him the light shines. Indeed it does. It shines so brightly that the darkness cannot and never will overcome it! It shines so brightly that it dwells in us, even when we are not feeling so bright and shiny. It shines so brightly that it dwells in this world, even if we struggle, for now, with the darkness that continues to plague creation and her peoples.
Yes, Christ dwells! But what does that mean? The word DWELL shows up throughout Hebrew scriptures almost as a synonym for live or be alive. It can often get translated as abiding, especially in the Gospel of John. But it also conveys a question of where do you put your identity? Whose are you? And today I want us to consider the question “Where are you at home?” Are we at home in the places of power, worldly/political power that is? Or are we at home wherever the word is preached and taught? Are we at home in the heart of the vulnerable people like Mary? Where do you abide, dwell?
Hold that thought for a few minutes because I also want to discuss something else: The Silent years…. Most of us would love to know more stories of Jesus from birth to age 30 when he was baptized by John and began his ministry. All those years of his growing up, what went on during that time we wonder? What lies behind that sentence: “The child grew and became strong”?
For those 30 years, God lived among us in human form. Can you imagine God as one of us, playing tag with his friends in the streets of Nazareth? Or maybe complaining to Mary about having to do his chores? Let’s put some flesh on the bones of those silent years—think of God as one of us, needing everything we have needed. Like a mother to dress and bathe him and put him to bed, or urge him to eat more fruits and vegetables, or remind him to wear an extra layer when he went out in the cold.
Can you see God living with a human father who taught him a trade? Who scolded him when needed? Like when he panicked them after traveling to Jerusalem for the Passover only to lose him? All of Jesus’ everyday ordinary experiences unfolded during the 30 years between chapter 2 and 3 of Luke’s gospel. He didn’t jump from birth to ministry---he lived it!
God spent the majority of time on earth finding out what it’s like to be an ordinary human being! He dwelled in his human form and made holy every moment of ordinary, everyday life. God took quite a bit of time before acting! 30 years! God’s movements in human history are rarely sudden. God doesn’t create change overnight and God rarely changes people that quickly either. A lot actually happens during the “silent years’ –- not just in Jesus’ life but in our lives too!
God comes to us, dwells with us, abides with us as we grow and live our lives. Think about it that way -- we dwell with God, in our ordinariness, when our life is simply normal. We don’t have to live a life that is Guinness Book of World Records noteworthy—we don’t have to have such influence that it effects the world on a global platform level. We are not Jesus!
Every life matters and is where God chooses to dwell. Because we are beloved and chosen by God, as are all people, God further invites us to dwell with God! To House the Holy. And not just when you meet a certain milestone like age 30 but our entire lives! In all our ‘silent’ years… the time between our birth and deaths.
And how do we do that? That’s what Paul tells us today. Clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience. Bear with one another, forgive each other; just as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. AND above all, clothe yourselves with love. It binds everything together! Paul asks us what are you going to wear? For people without homes, clothing is their only shelter. Your clothing is a house, a dwelling place. So what are you going to choose to wear? Will it be compassion? Kindness, humility, meekness and patience? I hope so! And I really hope its love! To dwell with the Holy means to wear things that are good for other people as well as ourselves.
And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts. And be thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell in you
The “word of Christ” is to make its home in each one of us and it’s not literally one single word, it’s the entire teaching of Jesus and the life and character of Jesus, it’s God! BUT If there was to be a single word, then I think the word would be love. Above all clothe yourselves with love. Let love be your dwelling.
We are not called to be Jesus BUT we are called to Love like Jesus! And that is how we Dwell, with the Lord and God’s world, today and for the rest of our lives. God has been born FOR US, IN US, so let’s house the Holy, abide with God. Let us dwell in our Father’s house—which is everyplace—being loved and therefore fiercely loving in Jesus name. Amen?
Please join with me as we sing verse one of the anthem “There’s A Spirit of Love.”