By Rev. Robert Shearer
Advent IV • December 20, 2020
2 Samuel 7:1-11, 16 • Psalm 89:1-4, 19-26 • Romans 16:25-27 • Luke 1:26-38
In the Name of God: the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.
Where does God live? If we were to look around for God where
would we find him (or “her,” or “it”—pick your favorite
pronoun). We would like to know God, to encounter God, to
enter his presence. But where?
We can see in the Bible that the established place of God’s
presence has moved around. In Genesis, God creates the world
from some place outside the world—in heaven, presumably. From
Adam and Eve onward, until Moses, God is a presence, but not
one located in any particular place.
With Moses, we find God in a burning bush, a shrub that burns
but is not consumed, and it is a holy place. For where God is to be
found, that place must be holy.
When Moses leads the Chosen People—slaves in Egypt—out of
their bondage, God orders that a tabernacle be made for his
presence to inhabit. The travelling Israelites lived in tents, so the
Tabernacle was also a tent that could be dismantled and moved.
The tent stayed with the people of Israel until the kingdom was
established under David. As we heard in this morning’s First
Lesson, God says to David in a dream, “I have not lived in a house
since the day I brought up the people of Israel from Egypt to this
day, but I have been moving about in a tent and a tabernacle.”
David desired to build a house for God, a temple. But in this
dream, God tells him that a son of his will build a temple, and that
he will have to be satisfied with having a great name for himself
and an established throne that will far outlive him.
David’s son, Solomon, did indeed build the first Temple, and the
presence of God lived there, his throne on earth in the Holy of
Holies, the innermost room of the temple.
The Temple in Jerusalem remained God’s location into Jesus’ time,
but then a change began to occur. The Temple had been destroyed
and rebuilt two times, and about 40 years after Jesus death the
Romans destroyed the Third Temple and its place on Temple
Mount has remained vacant ever since.
The prophets had said that when Messiah comes, his name will be
Emmanuel. As you probably know, Emmanuel means “God with
us.” The first disciples discerned God’s presence in a human being,
in Jesus, so the location of God’s home shifted from a physical
place of “brick and mortar” to a human being.
Luke, in today’s Gospel reading, tells the story of how this
happened, this coming of God into human form, through Mary,
Jesus’ mother. It is an elaborate story, but the central point is
simple—God became incarnate in a human being.
And then, another shift took place as Jesus’ teachings took hold in
the Christian community of the First Century. St Paul says, “…do
you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within
you, whom you have from God?”
Each of us is the Temple now, and to look for God in a place is to
miss the point. For God lives in us, and we, each of us, are
But what about our churches, sanctuaries, cathedrals, and shrines?
Are they not God’s houses? What about our lovely Good
Shepherd, which most of us are attached to and come to for the
experience of God’s presence?
I think such buildings do provide the opportunity to connect with
the Divine Presence. While the Temple is no longer one made of
stone and wood, but rather we are temples of flesh and blood,
most of us find the sanctuary a physical place where the encounter
with God takes place.
So. the residence of God has moved from outside creation to a
burning bush, and then to a Tabernacle tent, and then to the
Jerusalem Temple, and then to the person of Jesus, and finally to
the body of each of us, and the community of the faithful who
gather in the promise that Christ would be with us—whenever two
or three are gathered together.
God has, over the vast experience of generations of his people,
moved from the remoteness of being outside the Universe to the
most intimate places of human existence—into the lives of each of
Thanks be to God for giving us his Spirit so that we can be Christs
for our generation.