He is the One we celebrate this month: this Word-made-flesh, who arrived in our midst to shine light where before only darkness had been. But God’s desire to walk among us did not begin with the incarnation. In fact, God’s desire has always been: to dwell with mankind.
"In the beginning," God created man in His image. Surely it was paradise to walk with God through His garden in the cool of the day (Genesis 3:8). But man’s choice to heed his own desires, instead of His creator’s, exiled humanity from God’s paradise (yet not from the hope of His presence).
Even as man abandoned Him, God did not abandon His desire to dwell with man. He chose Israel, an insignificant nation by human standards, to be His own treasured possession. “I will be their God, and they will be my people” is the common refrain of the Old Testament prophets who spoke God's desire to His people, again and again.
After rescuing Israel from slavery, the Lord provided a blueprint for His dwelling place, the tabernacle, among His people.
“Then have them make a sanctuary for me, and I will dwell among them,” the Lord instructs Moses atop Mount Sinai (Exodus 25:8). A holy God longing to live with His people, God made a way by which He could dwell with His sinful, but nonetheless chosen, family.
Then Jesus Christ was born. Never was God’s heartfelt desire more clearly seen than in the face of Christ: the Word - God - in the flesh. And that divine flesh dwelt among us! The word translated “dwelt” in John 1:14 is the same word used for tabernacle in Exodus passages. Literally, Jesus “tabernacled” among us. One modern translation puts it this way: "The Word became flesh and blood, and moved into the neighborhood."
But what about now that Christmas is over? What about now that Jesus no longer walks the earth? For those who belong to Christ, His physical absence actually means a more intimate dwelling with the Lord! Paul writes, “For you are the temple [tabernacle] of the living God. As God has said, ‘I will dwell in them and walk among them. I will be their God, and they shall be my people’ ” (2 Corinthians 6:16). Sounds familiar, doesn’t it?
We are now God’s dwelling place. Those who accept Christ into their lives, and who are in Christ, having been united to His resurrected life, are told that “the Spirit of God dwells within you” (1 Corinthians 3:16).
He dwells in His children, in the heart, in the spirit, in the mind, in the very essence of our being. We are transformed by our union with Him and share in His life (Colossians 3:4). We are tabernacles of the Lord; our bodies are His temple; His dwelling place is in and among His people.
In this post-Christmas season, my prayer for you is: