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In the first month in the second year, on the first day of the month, the tabernacle was erected. Exodus 40:17
DEAR BELOVED IN THE LORD, For your celebration you brought out Christmas decorations and erected a Christmas tree to commemorate the birth of your newborn King and Savior. Do you know, long ago, the LORD YHVH erected a Holy Tabernacle pointing to your salvation in Jesus Christ? The foreshadowing of Jesus coming in the flesh is in The Tabernacle described in today's Old Testament text appointed for Christ-Mass Day. Prophet Moses raised up the Tabernacle precisely as the LORD instructed. Moses carefully followed the exact placement for base, framing, pillars, the tent covering over the Ark of the Covenant with its sacred contents and the Mercy Seat. Why all this unique detail? Well, this was more than a wilderness camping adventure. This was an extraordinary time for Israel, when the LORD YHVH dwelt among them, living in a tent as they did, traveling with them during their journeys. This is so extraordinary because He is the most holy and glorious Lord YHVH who chose to dwell among His sinful people.
The LORD chooses to be intimately present with His people. He desires to be known as Immanuel, "God with us." This also is foreshadowed and proclaimed by another prophet of the LORD, Isaiah: "Therefore the Lord Himself will give you a sign. Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call His name Immanuel." Isaiah 7:14 Add also, the angel of the LORD revealed to a dreaming Joseph: "She (i.e., virgin Mary) will bear a son, and you shall call His name Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins." All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet (the same Isaiah cited above) "and they shall call His name Immanuel" (which means, God with us)." (Matthew 1:21-23)
Yes, this unique Tabernacle, assembled by the great prophet Moses, is only a pale shadow of the much more majestic Tabernacle that did come. The establishment of that greater Tabernacle is what we celebrate today, for the LORD came to pitch His tent among men; only this tent was not made of fabric and wooden poles and rope. No, He tabernacled among us in human flesh. The Glorious God who reigns above the universe became Man and lived among sinful human beings. How extraordinary! How majestic it is when the Creator of all is laid in a manger! This is the dwelling of God with man. This is the more glorious Tent of Meeting, where the LORD comes to redeem mankind. His Tabernacle covered in soft baby's skin concealed the bright majesty of the LORD. The very same glory appeared to the people when Moses made the old tabernacle. The fiery pillar and the shining cloud located YHVH's presence while the shining glory of the LORD filled that tent. Even Moses the great prophet was not able to enter the tent when the glory of YHVH filled it. This same overwhelming glory filled the Baby Jesus. If He let His glory shine forth, no one could approach Him. Mary and Joseph would have had to flee from His presence because the all-consuming majesty of Almighty God would burst forth from the manger. We sinners cannot stand in the presence of that majesty. No man, woman, or child is innocent or righteous enough to look the powerful, eternal God in the face, even if that face had been a tiny baby's, so God concealed that glory. He clothed Himself in human flesh. He pitched His tent among men to conceal His burning majesty from the eyes of men.
He not only became flesh, but also assumed the form of a servant. Even in the Tabernacle of His human body, He could shine out with blinding holiness, yet He did not exercise His majesty. He hid His splendor behind the appearance of a feeble, helpless infant; but make no mistake: He who appeared to be nothing but a weak baby was in fact the all-powerful One. For us sinners, He concealed His glory and came among us. To redeem lost sinners, He was content to be like us. Oh, miracle of miracles that we cannot fully comprehend: the omnipotent Deity contained in an infant's tiny body! The hands that masterfully shaped the entire creation appear fragile and clumsy. The Word by which all things came into existence, uttered wordless cries. The Word who is God was in a manger. This is the eternal Tabernacle-ing of God.
Jesus is the new and greater Ark of the Covenant. Jesus is the mercy seat for all mankind. The holy blood shed for our iniquities run down His skin -- skin far more precious than the golden lid of the Ancient Ark of the Covenant. In the old Covenant, the blood of a lamb had to be poured on the lid of the Ark every year to atone for the sins of the people, but the Blood of Christ, far more valuable than any lamb's blood, purchased atonement for all sins for all time. Jesus is the eternal mercy seat.
His body and life exhibited perfect obedience to the Ten Commandments. The people of Israel broke those Commandments that were written on two stone tablets and placed within the Ark of the Covenant, but Christ not only obeyed the Commandments, He is also their author. His holy finger wrote them upon the stone tablets for Moses. When people saw the righteousness of Christ on this earth, they were seeing the absolute holiness of the LORD present in human flesh. Obedience to the Ten Commandments flowed naturally for Him, since He is the Source of all righteousness. Yet He placed Himself under the Law. He assumed for Himself the responsibility that comes with the Ten Commandments. When they are broken, a price must be paid. We know that He did not break any single "jot or tittle" of any Commandment, yet He took the responsibility for our disobedience and paid our debt. Blood had to be shed. Death had to come. The Tabernacle was designed to be a place of sacrifice to atone for sin, and He, our great Tabernacle, took the responsibility to shed His Blood. Our sins became His burden. Our punishment became His to pay, so God the Father raised this tent, not made with human hands, but conceived in the womb of the Blessed Virgin. He established His Tabernacle to be the place where, once and for all, God would make His New Covenant with men and hung it on a man-made cress for all to see. Here at His altar we celebrate the sacrifice He offered for us. The Lamb, who is also the Tabernacle, gives His Flesh and Blood to eat and drink today. The meal we share is the New Covenant in the holy Blood of Christ. The glory of His presence will be hidden from our eyes, or else none could approach this altar. Yet the One who sits between the cherubim in the in the highest heaven fills this place with His presence today. Blessed Martin Chemnitz said, "By this connection with His humanity, which has been assumed from us and communicated back to us [in the Supper], He draws us into communion and union with the deity itself." Now we hear His gracious Word: the same Word that spoke in the darkness of creation, the same Word that spoke to Moses, instructing Him to make a tabernacle that foreshadowed His incarnation, the same Word that spoke through Isaiah and to the dreaming Joseph, the same Word that spoke in the darkness of Golgotha, and later cried out triumphantly from the cross, It is finished! HE comes among us. HE who is with God and is God comes here. HE who was in the beginning is among us in His Supper this morning. He says, "Receive my Body given for you. Receive my Blood shed for you. I took flesh for you, I forgive you your sins and I forever remain your Brother. The Covenant of God with men is forever sealed by My death. Atonement is won. Trust in Me, because I will give you an eternity of living with Me. I will dwell among you, my people, forever." Thus, says the great I Am: the LORD of Israel, the LORD of glory, who tabernacles among us, who became man for you, and became the Lamb to shed His lifeblood for mankind's redemption. In His Name and to His glory alone, with the Father and the Holy Spirit, one God forever, we rejoice and say, AMEN.
~ Rev. George Fyler