Summary: God decided to go camping at Christmas time. For that is what He did – God went camping. But he didn’t go camping for a holiday, his ‘camping trip’ was scheduled because of his love for you and for me.
WHEN GOD WENT CAMPING
This morning’s talk is based on an article written by Tony Payne. Some of the text is taken directly from that article too.
Now, I’d like this to be a little bit interactive – not too interactive because I don’t want you to be asking me questions that I might not be able to answer – so it’ll be interactive in the sense that I’ll ask you questions that you might not be able to answer – that OK? That way at least one of us will come out looking good!
Well, the first question I have for you is, ‘Who likes camping?’ Now before you answer that question be aware that the next question might be, “Why do you like camping?’ So with that in mind, “Who does like camping?’ Well that’s very good. Why do you like camping?
I used to love camping too. But now with four kids, two not even in Primary School, ’camping’... and ‘holiday’ are two words that do not belong in the same paragraph.
For us, (in the words of another) ‘holidays are a time when more than a flimsy plastic barrier must stand between our comfort and the world outside.’
Which makes it all the more extraordinary, to my mind at least, that God should have decided to go camping at Christmas time. For that is what He did – God went camping. But he didn’t go camping for a holiday, his ‘camping trip’ was scheduled because of his love for you and for me.
The apostle John tells us in the first chapter of his Gospel. How the Word of God, the Creator of every single thing that exists in the universe, and the Sustainer of life for all mankind, became flesh and for a while lived among us. John says, in fact, that he ’pitched his tent’ among us (Jn 1:14).
God went camping, in other words. The divine Son left the heavenly throne, pitched his one-man tent in our caravan park, and stayed there for a time. And during that time, John goes on to say, ‘we beheld his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father’.
This extraordinary image draws much of its significance from the Old Testament ‘tent’ (or ’tabernacle’) in which God dwelt among his people Israel. Though he was the God of all the earth, the Sovereign Creator and Ruler of all things, he decided to dwell with Israel, his chosen people. He manifested himself there with them, and revealed his glory to them.
It’s a long story, but eventually the divine presence departed from Israel because of her persistent rebellion and apostasy. Ezekiel provides us with the dramatic vision of the divine glory leaving the temple for good. The prophets then look forward to a time when God will return in glory to his people.
With the birth of Jesus, that time came. God once again pitched his rent among his people. What’s more, as John’s Gospel proceeds, Jesus makes it very clear that he has been sent by the Father on this ’camping trip’ for a particular reason, to do a particular work: to save for eternal life all those who believe in him (Jn 3:16; 6:40 and so on).
Listen to how Charles Colson, a former presidential aide to Richard Nixon met this One who was born in a manger, died on a cross and rose three days later:-
‘One grey overcast evening, I sought out my friend Tom Phillips. He read aloud the chapter on pride from C.S. Lewis’s Mere Christianity. That one chapter ripped through the protective armour in which I had unknowingly encased myself for the past 42 years. Of course, I had not known God. How could I? I had been concerned with myself. I had done this and that, I had achieved, I had succeeded. In those brief moments while Tom read, I saw myself as I had never done before. And the picture was ugly.
"Would you like to pray together Chuck?’ Tom asked, closing his Bible. Startled, I emerged from my deep thoughts. "Sure - I guess I would - fine" I’d never prayed with anyone before except when someone said grace before a meal. Tom bowed his head. ’Lord,’ he began, ’we pray for Chuck and his family, that you might open his heart and show him the light and the way.’
As Tom prayed, something began to flow into me - a kind of energy. Then came a wave of emotion which nearly brought tears. I fought them back. It sounded as if Tom were speaking directly and personally to God, almost as if He were sitting beside us.
Later outside in the darkness, the iron grip I’d kept upon my emotions began to relax. Tears welled up in my eyes as I groped in the darkness for the right key to start my car. Angrily I brushed them away and started the engine.