Note from CM: As we light the second Advent candle, we thank God for his gift of peace. Ephesians 2 speaks of the peace Christ brings to those far and near, calling them together into the one household of God (Eph 2:11-22). Thanks to Damaris today for the following meditation on God’s dwelling place.
â€œHow lovely is your dwelling place, O Lord of Hosts!â€
â€¢ Psalm 84:1
What is the dwelling place of the Lord?Â It can be a Gothic cathedral, surging upward like flames, like trees drawing their strength from the ground and flowering into a hundred branches far overhead.Â The stained glass scatters bright jewels of color on stone.Â This building points upward, saying â€œLift your eyes and look to the heavens:Â who created all these?â€Â (Isaiah 40:26)
Or a Byzantine church, paradise not pointed to but enclosed, beneath the dome, within the arms of Christ Pantokrator.Â A cloud of incense; a cloud of witnesses seen through the icons, the windows of heaven.
Or a Quaker meeting house, empty and clean, like a shell scoured by the sea.Â Bare wood, plain lines restful to the eye, lit by the happy light pouring through windows.Â Silence; peace.Â How lovely is your dwelling place, O Lord of Hosts.
There is a tiny whitewashed church on a Greek hillside — a dome on a box.Â A few candles flicker; their flames are reflected by small metal plaques hanging next to the icons.Â The image on each plaque represents what the petitioner is praying for:Â a child, a car, an arm.
The white light outside the church is blinding, glorious.Â This Greek hillside is also Godâ€™s dwelling place.Â â€œThe earth is the Lordâ€™s and the fullness thereof.â€Â (Ps. 24:1) Surely he delights in the smell of thyme and sea as much as in incense; surely his presence is announced as compellingly by the dull clunk of sheep bells as by the clangor of a carillon.
Or a forest where light falls through the branches.Â Or the immensity of plains or sea.Â The strength of mountains.Â Sky, sun, stars, and moon.Â â€œIf I go to the heavens, you are there; if I make my bed in the depths, you are there.Â If I rise on the wings of the dawn, if I settle on the far side of the sea, even there your hand will guide me, your right hand will hold me fast.â€Â (Ps. 139:8-10)
But we are small, and we mostly donâ€™t live in immensities.Â On Sunday morning, we rejoice with those who say, â€œLet us go to the house of the Lord.â€Â (Ps. 122:1) Itâ€™s a plain building, perhaps.Â There are children crying, people wrestling with coats, doors opening and closing.Â There may be no great artwork inside and only a tangle of city streets outside.Â But our churches are built on a promise:Â â€œHere I am!Â I stand at the door and knock.Â If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with him, and he with me.â€ And we build the church so that we can open the door and he can come in.
In one church I saw only ugliness, not God.Â There were no hangings, no stained glass, no windows or color or beauty.Â The carpeted dais and the floor around it were a snakepit of electrical wires.Â Duck tape disfigured floor and walls.Â Empty water bottles lay here and there, and microphone stands stuck up randomly like snags in a swamp.Â It had all the beauty of a field after the circus has left.Â Where was God?
Then the people began to pour in.Â Plain people, just parents with kids, teenagers, old people.Â They were talking, laughing, even calling to each other as they took their seats, like a mob of gaudy parrots settling onto their perches.Â And suddenly I really saw them:Â they â€œare the temple of the living God.Â As God has said, â€˜I will live with them and walk among them, and I will be their God, and they will be my people.â€™â€Â (2Cor.6:16)
How lovely is your dwelling place, O Lord of Hosts!
In a mystery God already dwells among us — in our church buildings, in his creation, in the Church, and in each believer — yet we still await his Advent.Â With John we pray, â€œCome, Lord Jesus.â€Â (Rev. 22:20) And God answers us, â€œâ€™The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuelâ€™ — which means, â€˜God with usâ€™.â€Â (Matt. 1:22)
God with us.Â How lovely is your dwelling place, O Lord of Hosts.