Summary: In the year 957 BC King Solomon at the dedication of the temple in Jerusalem asked this question: "Will God really dwell on earth?" The answer is yes.... when Mary placed God in a box, where cattle lately fed...
In Jesus Holy Name December 24, 2007
Text: Luke 2:4-7 Christmas Eve - Redeemer
“Mary Put God In A Box”
In the year 957 B.C, Solomon, The King of Israel, was preparing to build a temple in Jerusalem, a place for the children of Israel to gather for worship. When the temple was dedicated, “The priests brought the ark of the covenant to its place in the inner sanctuary of the temple, The Most Holy Place.” “When the priest withdrew from the Holy Place, the cloud (of God’s presence) filled the temple of the Lord.” (pomp, cymbals, music)
I Kings 8 records the prayer of Solomon.
“O Lord, God of Israel, there is no God like you in heaven above or on earth below. You keep your covenant of love …” Then Solomon, in his prayer, asks a serious question. “Will God really dwell on earth?” The heavens cannot contain the Almighty God ,,, How much less this temple. Nine centuries later, King Solomon’s question of “Will God dwell on earth?” was answered. Yes, God chose to dwell on earth.
Joseph, the carpenter from Nazareth and his wife Mary, traveled from their home in Nazareth to Bethlehem. Another King, Ruler of Rome, had decreed that a census should be taken. So Joseph travels to Bethlehem, the town of David, the town of Solomon’s Grandfather, Jesse, because Joseph was a descendant of David. While they were there, Mary gave birth to her first born, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, a wooden box, in a cradle so rude and bare, because there was no room for them in the inn.
The Apostle Paul writes of Jesus, “In Him the full deity of God dwells in him.” The invisible God became visible. The baby in Mary’s arms, the baby lying in a manger is God in flesh.
Pope John Paul II wrote: “Christmas demands faith because Christmas is a mystery. Our reason can not understand how God could possibly love us to such a degree. The shepherds were given a sign. They will find the Savior in a manger box.
C.S. Lewis in “Mere Christianity” wrote: “The Son of God became a man to enable us to become the sons of God.”
Martin Luther loved the celebration of Christmas. One of his hymns captures the essence of the birth of Jesus in Bethlehem:
Welcome to earth, O noble Guest
Oh, Lord, You created all and yet became so small
You chose to lay your head where cattle lately fed.
I grew up on a farm in Missouri. It was one of those farms that had a big barn, hand hewn logs and wooden pegs. The barn had a center hallway with grain bins on one side in which was stored wheat or corn and mixed grain. The other side of the aisle was a corn crib that could be accessed from the outside, a wooden stair case that led to the loft, where hay was stored. To the right of the aisle one would pass a long feeding trough where the milking stantures were and then a stable for Dad’s two draft horses. Each horse had a small wooden box in which we placed their grain. Each box was about 18” x 24”, about 4” or 5” high. Between the tall boxes is where we placed the hay. So it’s easy for me to see the stable and the manger available to Mary & Joseph, a perfect box to hold the newborn infant.
Matthew and Luke focus our attention on God’s arrival and intervention into our human history with the birth of Jesus in Bethlehem. The Gospel of John sees beyond the birth to the living word of God who left eternity to reside on the very earth his fingers had created. “The Word became flesh and dwelt among us. We beheld His glory.”
I love the word descriptions of Matthew and Luke – shepherds in the fields, angelic chorus, the visit of the Wise Men, a stable and manger. They capture our attention, our emotions, and open a window into the mystery of the incarnation.
The Omnipotent God of the Universe made himself breakable and vulnerable in the arms of Mary. When Joseph and Mary wrapped, in home spun cloth, the infant Jesus, God the creator was made visible. She placed the child in a box that cradled the sleeping child. Christmas is the celebration of God’s entry point – a demonstration of His love. His name will be Jesus for He will save His people from their sins.
Let me tell you another story. It begins on Christmas day years ago. A woman paid a holiday visit to the home of a friend. At that home was a little girl who had a most excellent doll collection. That collection had become, with the opening of Christmas gifts, considerably larger. Making adult conversation with the little lady, the friend asked, “Of all the dolls, which one of these is your favorite? The little girl brought out a doll that was the most tattered and pathetic thing the woman had ever seen. The face was disfigured because of a broken nose. One china arm was cracked and the other was missing entirely. The woman didn’t laugh, but she asked, “And why?” Why do you love this one the most? You have so many pretty dolls. To which the little girl could only confess: “I love this one the most because she needs it the most. If I didn’t love her, nobody would”