Advent 4b, (December 21, 2014)
Holy Cross Lutheran Church
Rev. Todd A. Peperkorn
TITLE: “The House that God Built”
Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord, Jesus Christ. Amen. Our text for today is the Gospel just read from St. Luke chapter one.
King David had it all. His enemies were dust under his feet. He had a beautiful wife, Michal. He had a grand city, Jerusalem. He had a palace that was the envy of kings for hundreds of miles. King David had everything. And it was then that a thought occurred to him: I should build a house for God!, for he is still traveling in a tabernacle. God deserves better than that, so he thought. So David set about to build a better house for God. A temple made with hands, that would be beautiful beyond all imagination, that would put that lowly tent of a tabernacle completely to shame. God will come down and dwell with us even more if we make everything just right for Him down here.
Isn’t that how it goes so often? We believe, instinctively, that in order for God to come down and dwell among us, we have to set things up just right. Our house must be in order. Things must be just so. We can’t let anyone or anything be out of place, or God may not want to really be with us.
Do you live with that mindset? Now I know that we don’t consciously think this way, but underneath it all, I suspect that for us all there is a sense that in order for things to be right with God, we have to, well we have to clean house. Maybe even build a new house for God. I shudder to think of how many people never darken the door of a church because they fear that they have to get their act together in order for God to accept them.
God had an answer for his servant, David. He said through the prophet, Nathan:
“have been with you wherever you went and have cut off all your enemies from before you. And I will make for you a great name, like the name of the great ones of the earth. And I will appoint a place for my people Israel and will plant them, so that they may dwell in their own place and be disturbed no more. And violent men shall afflict them no more, as formerly, from the time that I appointed judges over my people Israel. And I will give you rest from all your enemies. Moreover, the LORD declares to you that the LORD will make you a house. And your house and your kingdom shall be made sure forever before me. Your throne shall be established forever.’”” (2 Samuel 7:9–11, 16 ESV)
This is where Mary comes in, and the angel Gabriel. David wanted to do something for God, but he was too weighed down by his sins and transgressions to have anything to offer. For centuries humanity had been weighed down by sin and shame. Death has ruled over us all.
But no more.
The archangel Gabriel came to Mary, a peasant girl from the house of David. His greeting sets the stage for the most amazing story of all time. ““Greetings, O favored one, the Lord is with you!”” (Luke 1:28 ESV) That term “O favored one,” is one of the richest in the whole Bible. It literally means “graced one” or something like that. It means that God looks upon you with eyes of kindness. As we say in the benediction, God shines upon you, lifts up his countenance upon you, and gives you peace.
That is how God looks at this young girl from the backwards city of Nazareth. God would give her a child by the Holy Spirit, and that child would be the very Word of God made flesh. Mary’s womb became the tabernacle through which God Himself came into the world.
By entering into the womb of Mary, he made the womb the most holy place of all. It is here that life itself begins. And not just any life. It is here that Life, real and true and eternal begins, not just for Jesus, or for Mary, but for the entire world. I don’t think we can overestimate how amazing a gift that is to us all.
This child, this little, helpless babe, is the King of Kings and Lord of Lords. This is is the heir to the throne of David. He is your king and mine, but His rule is not in power and show. Rather, His rule is much like His coming into the world. Lowly, through the unexpected, the marginalized, the least of His people, at least to the eyes of the world.
Beloved, the world does not look at Mary as God does. And in the same way, the world does not look at you the same way God does. To the world, you are nothing. A statistic, one of billions, and your life has no purpose, no meaning. It doesn’t go anywhere. You live and then you die.
But that is not how God looks at you. God looks at you with the eyes of grace, the eyes which gazed upon the Mother of God, our Lord Jesus Christ. His graceful eyes now turn to you, and in you He sees eternity. This mystery was kept secret for many ages, but is now revealed in Jesus Christ. By coming into your flesh and blood through the womb of the Virgin, God becomes man so that we may receive all of His blessings and gifts.
And you receive that same Son, those same blessings, today in the Sacrament of the Altar. Like Mary you do not deserve to receive Him, but He comes to you nonetheless. He comes to you now, hidden under bread and wine, and He gives you His very body and blood for life and salvation.
So come, worship the Christ-child by receiving His flesh and blood in this most Holy Sacrament. Eternal life is yours. You are holy by His flesh and blood. God looks upon you with favor, and He lifts you out of your sins and sets you up as His family, for that is who you are in Christ.
Believe it for Jesus' sake. Amen.
And now the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, keep your hearts and minds in true faith to life everlasting. Amen.