Where is the strangest place you have attended church since March? A parking lot? A ball field? Your car? The front lawn of the church? Your living room?
As strange as these last few months have been for us, we have nothing on God’s people in King David’s time. They wandered the wilderness for years, obediently following the Ark of the Covenant as it traveled throughout the Promised Land in a movable tent. That tent was their church.
But after David had made himself comfy and cozy in his brand new palace, he remembered that God had no home. He began to think about that.
(Hmmm. Were David’s priorities in the right order?)
2 Samuel (Contemporary English Version)
7 King David moved into his new palace, and the Lord let his kingdom be at peace. 2 Then one day, as David was talking with Nathan the prophet, David said, “Look around! I live in a palace made of cedar, but the sacred chest has to stay in a tent.”
3 Nathan replied, “The Lord is with you, so do what you want!”
Sometimes even well-meaning friends give you the wrong advice. God set Nathan straight.
4 That night, the Lord told Nathan 5 to go to David and give him this message:
David, you are my servant, so listen to what I say. Why should you build a temple for me? 6 I didn’t live in a temple when I brought my people out of Egypt, and I don’t live in one now. A tent has always been my home wherever I have gone with them. 7 I chose leaders and told them to be like shepherds for my people Israel. But did I ever say anything to even one of them about building a cedar temple for me?
8 David, this is what I, the Lord All-Powerful, say to you. I brought you in from the fields where you took care of sheep, and I made you the leader of my people. 9 Wherever you went, I helped you and destroyed your enemies right in front of your eyes. I have made you one of the most famous people in the world.
10 I have given my people Israel a land of their own where they can live in peace, and they won’t have to tremble with fear any more. Evil nations won’t bother them, as they did 11 when I let judges rule my people. And I have kept your enemies from attacking you.
God is so much more than a building. He is greater than four walls and a roof. The trouble with buildings is that they need constant repair, and sometimes donors end up worshipping the structure more than the Lord. Think I’m exaggerating? Look around. How many little brass people-plaques do you have in your sanctuary?
God’s “building” was going to be so much greater. He looked at David and decided to build a lineage that would run straight to Jesus. And Jesus would come to build a church of love, compassion, justice, hope, and peace.
Now I promise that you and your descendants will be kings.
I write this today to offer you a message of comfort. You may not be able to be in your “building” on Christmas Eve. You may not be in a sanctuary for many more months to come. But if we’ve learned one thing from this pandemic, it is that God is wherever his people are. That is the whole point of Christmas. The incarnation was about God coming to us to inhabit our world, our lives, our hearts, and our hopes and dreams for the future.
Christmas is all about God WITH us…Emmanuel.
Come, Lord Jesus! Come.