I caught a moment of silence, my living room illuminated by warm white Christmas lights in the pre-dawn chill. There is very little quiet in my home full of humans trying to learn to coexist, trust, and love one another. We are new to one another still, having welcomed in two little people via foster care as the fall leaves were turning scarlet and gold.
All the noise is proof that we are working it out. Keyword: working. We dwell together. We disagree and learn forgiveness. We bump into the messy and painful parts of one another’s stories whether we want to or not. When you are close in proximity, you can’t hide the broken places for long.
Dwelling together is what Christmas is all about. We feel it in all our longings for the season, as evidenced by Hallmark movies portraying cozy closeness as well as conflict. Whether we savor every moment of sweet time with loved ones or feel the pain of broken relationships, the Christmas season has a way of pointing out the health of our relationships. Is there reconciliation needed? Uncomfortable distance where there used to be closeness? While families and friends scatter throughout the year, this season celebrating Jesus, the ultimate reconciler, causes us to abide in close proximity again and impinge on one another in ways that we cannot ignore.
But Christmas reminds us of how we sojourn together, not just because of our longings, but because of the one we are celebrating. Jesus. The one who came to dwell with us, and came in our brokenness and pain so that our relationship with God is no longer that of an enemy, but of his child. He was also called Emmanuel which means, God with us.
This year I have been struck by the overarching story of God’s dwelling and the progressive movement throughout human history of reconciliation and nearness. The first hints that God was moving towards humanity with love weren’t baby Jesus, born in humble anonymity. From the moment of the fall, the way for reconciliation was being laid out, foreshadowed, and proclaimed. Here are six ways beyond the beautiful message of Christmas that we see God making a dwelling place with his people.
The contrast of the perfect Eden seen in Genesis, where walking with God was the norm, and the world we witness daily reminds us how embracing the lie of living life on our own terms sends us into a downward spiral and separates us from God. Away from Eden—away from our Creator—nearness replaced with enmity. But, the story doesn’t end there. Promises of restoration and rescue continue to be found throughout the story of God and mankind.
In Exodus, God promised to dwell among the people. In Exodus 29:46 God said, They will know that I am the Lord their God, who brought them out of Egypt so that I might dwell among them. I am the Lord their God.” The traveling tabernacle was where the Levite priests, whose job it was to intercede on behalf of the people would go to a specific location to meet with God. The dwelling of God in the tabernacle was real but temporary. Access was possible but infrequent and only available to the elite.
Finally! A permanent place to worship, where God’s presence dwelt. To Ezekial God said, “Son of man, this is the place of my throne and the place for the soles of my feet. This is where I will live among the Israelites forever….with only a wall between me and them…” Ezekial 43:7-8 But even in this state there was a divide. Only a wall between God and Humanity, but still a wall. There was a system in place for the cleansing of sin so that mankind could be reconciled to God, but it was also temporary.
What a surprise. God coming to dwell with mankind, in the humblest form possible. A tiny baby, who would grow up to finally make a way for people to be near once more. John 1:14 tells us “The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.
And in the end, when he defeated sin once and for all, a tangible sign. The curtain that had kept out mankind from the dwelling of God was torn in two. Everything is different now. Our access changed at the cross. Not only was sin paid for, but death defeated, as Jesus rose from death.
Amazingly, God did not stop with just coming to live with us and modeling the life we should live but promised to send the Holy Spirit to all who believe. The fancy word for this complicated reality is indwelling. As in, God’s spirit isn’t only external, but in the very core of who we are, He dwells, comforting, guiding, convicting, reminding, teaching. Hold tight to the sweet comfort of Ephesians 2:22 which reminds us, “And in him you too are being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by his Spirit.
A Home for Eternity
The point of Christmas, of the baby born with the animals and hay, is not just the historical fact, but the future reality that his reconciliation brought to us. When all the mess and brokenness is finally remedied, God won’t be distant, he will dwell with us saysRevelation 21:3-5a, “And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. ‘He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death’[or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.’ He who was seated on the throne said, ‘I am making everything new!”
This Christmas as you ponder the baby who came near, take time to dwell with him in the moments of your normal life. Because God is not distant, but close, we can take the reconciliation, love, and forgiveness we have received and translate it into dwelling with the imperfect people in our own lives.