The Old Testament tabernacle was a place of holy beauty, sacrifice and worship. As the curtains of the tabernacle billowed in the wild winds of the wilderness, hostile nations recognized that God lived among His people. The knowledge of God’s presence flooded the children of Israel with a sense of security; they had been granted access to God. The massive tent with beautiful, purposeful furnishings housed the divine and inspired reverence and worship.
John 1:14 declares that the “Word became flesh and “tabernacled” among us. The Word (Jesus), who was with God in the beginning, clothed Himself in humanity with all the limitations and constraints that feeble humanity entails. The Word, the Creator, through whom all things were made, emptied himself of all His rights and equality with God (Philippians 2) and became flesh.
Jesus was fully human and fully divine. Paul explains in Romans 1:3 that Jesus “as to his human nature was a descendant of David and who through the spirit of holiness was declared with power to be the Son of God.” In becoming human, Jesus did not cease to be God. The Word still existed but now in full humanity.
Jesus’ humanity incarnated the divine in a mysterious way. The incarnation of Christ is central to the Christian faith. The incarnation assured a flawless sacrifice for sin and offered reconciliation,“God and sinner reconciled.” The incarnation resulted in a Savior who experienced the frailties of humanity and could perfectly sympathize with His people (Hebrews 4:15).
In Bethlehem, as the night winds blew through an unadorned stable, tiny fingers and toes heralded glorious, miraculous news to shepherds, angels, Mary, Joseph and all who will kneel today. God was once again living among His people.
The Incarnate One dwelt among us for thirty three years. Though we do not see Him in physical form today, He has sent the Holy Spirit to freely dwell in all who ask. We could say that now we are His Tabernacle (I Cor. 3:16).
Leo Tolstoy’s devout cobbler, Martin Avdeitch, worked and lived in a basement room with one small window. He spent his days watching the feet of passersby. His years as a cobbler meant that he had repaired the shoes of most of the townspeople and could easily recognize the feet of each pedestrian.
Each day the cobbler hoped that would be the day he would see the Lord’s feet outside his tiny window. Hours went by with no sighting of the Lord. Instead, Martin noticed the tattered boots of an aging soldier pacing outside the window. Though disheartened that it was not Jesus, the cobbler was filled with compassion and invited the penniless and hungry gentleman to share an evening meal. Other friends came and went through the cobbler’s room that evening. While none were the Savior he longed to see, he welcomed them into his home.
At the end of his day, the disappointed old cobbler opened his Bible. As he read these words, he heard the Lord whisper his name: “I was hungry and you gave me meat; I was thirsty and you gave me drink; I was a stranger and you took me in. Inasmuch as you did for the least of these you did it for me.”1
Jesus came as God in the flesh. He dwelt among us. As we reflect on the Incarnate One this Christmas Season, may we worship and adore Him and serve Him by welcoming and serving others as if they were Christ.
Veiled in flesh the Godhead see;
Hail th’incarnate Deity,
Pleased with us in flesh to dwell,
Jesus our Emmanuel.
by guest author Kay Swatkowski. Kay is a mother of four, and grandmother of 3, who currently counsels at Compass Christian Counseling at Northpoint Church. She is passionate about coaching parents as they develop a lifelong relationship with their kids.
(1) Story told in Leo Tolstoy’s Walk in the Light While There is Light and Twenty-three Tales (Maryknoll, NY:Orbis Books, 2003)