Click here to read The Gospel of John 1:1-18

This passage is an assigned reading for the first Sunday of the new year. I find in this passage some important ideas, especially as we think about the unknown year ahead. Obviously, much can be said about this passage as John (the close friend and disciple of Jesus) is establishing an introduction that presents the themes he will take up throughout. However, in my sermon for this Sunday, I am focusing on verse 14 and the idea of “he dwelt among us.” (John 1:14)

God is Always with Us

We do not face the future alone, for God travels with us. John says in verse 14, “And the Word became flesh and lived among us, and we have seen his glory, the glory as of the Father’s only son, full of grace and truth.” The phrase, “and lived among us,” in the original Greek could read, “he tabernacled among us.” Let’s think about that.

John is harkening back to Israel’s journey out of Egypt and toward the land promised to them. They are journeying from a horrible past and into an unknown future. As they would travel, they would journey for a time, stop, and set up camp. In the center, they would erect the Tabernacle, which was built with the resources they were given when they left Egypt. They erected the Tabernacle in the middle and all the tribes set up their camps around it. The Tabernacle was the center, where they worshipped, prayed, and heard from God. (Exodus 40:36-38) Imagine the sight, each night you look out and you see the glowing presence of God.

The idea I want to get across is that Christ is the center of our life as individuals and as a congregation. I also want this sermon not to be about us and our goals and aspirations, but that as we go, God graciously goes with us.

If one chooses this text and this theme, then there are several points that can be drawn from Christ as the Tabernacle. I’ll list them below here. You may have more.

1. The Tabernacle was used in the in-between of deliverance from Egypt and the final destination of the land promised. We have be delivered from sin’s dominion. Shame, guilt, fear, is dead and gone. Yesterday is done. We are out of Egypt! However, we are not face-to-face with God yet. So we travel with Christ to hear from God.

2. The Tabernacle was important, but also plain. The temple built by Solomon was gorgeous, adorned with gold and gems and other adornments. The Tabernacle was c constructed of four woeven layers of curtains and wood boards. It was overlaid with good and other precious minerals they brought from Egypt, but there is no comparison.

In a prophecy about the Messiah, Isaiah 53:2 states, “He has no stately form or majesty that we should look upon him, nor appearance that we should be attracted to him.” In our culture, we want someone larger than life, strong, and attractive to be the hero. That was not Jesus. Yet, if you read of his life and his teachings, you find yourself drawn to him. His fight for justice, mercy, and fairness. He uplifted the poor and the disenfranchised and treated them as the Crown Jewels of heaven. He is attractive because of how he lived, not how he looked.

3. The Tabernacle was a meeting place and meaning place. It was meeting place between God and people. Through the repetitive liturgy, the people met with God in worship and prayer and they prayed for themselves, their family, and their community.

The Tabernacle was also a meaning place where they learned about God and themselves and how they were to make sense of themselves, the world inside them, and the world outside. Jesus is our meeting space and gives us a lens through which to understand God, ourselves, and others. Through the words and actions of Jesus, we craft a deeper meaning.

4. The Tabernacle was where God’s glory settled. Exodus 40 tells us this and God’s glory struck their hearts with awe and wonder. The writer of the New Testament book Hebrews (1:3) writes that Jesus Christ “is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature.” In the face of Christ, we see the face of God!

We need to be reminded that we worship a wild and untamed God. We try to domesticate Jesus, yet Christ will not be tamed. I am reminded of a passage in the Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, which was written by C.S. Lewis. One of the characters, Susan, has gone through the wardrobe and is in Narnia and is talking with Mr. Beaver. And she has heard about the real ruler, Aslan, who is a lion. Susan has heard what Aslan can do but she wants to know what he is like. So, she asks Mr. Beaver her question.

“Aslan is a lion-the lion, the great Lion. Oh, said Susan. I’d thought he was a man. Is he – quite safe? I shall feel rather nervous about meeting a lion.

Safe? Said Mr. Beaver, “Who said anything about safe? Of course, he isn’t safe. But he’s good. He’s the King I tell you.

Let Christ run wild. I wonder what it looks like for us to let Christ be Lord in this way?

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