As we approach the Christmas festivities, (and I say festivities, for there are twelve days of Christmas, not one) we begin our final approach to the upcoming Holy season.
The first reading from the Old Testament shows us the city of Jerusalem and King David inside his palace. He feels very secure of himself. All his campaigning is over, his battles are won, he has appointed all his government posts, brought his own advisors, and staff, and security detail. He can now relax, put up his feet, entertain his supporters, clap his hands and food is delivered to him. He doesn’t even have to go outside. He can go for a walk around his ramparts, bathe in his outdoor pool, stroll through the palace gardens and from his balcony, wave to all the cheering crowds.
But from his white limestone palace, where does he go to pray in his new city? Not to a temple or synagogue. Instead, he goes to a tent set up across town. There, under the shades held up with poles, he finds a makeshift altar and the arc of the covenant - that sacred place where the God of heaven dwells on earth.
David reflects on his own comfort house and palace, where all his creature comforts are catered to. He has a panic attack, embarrassed by all he has built around him for his own security and pleasure and then to see all the priests and people worshiping God outside exposed to the cold and night and the harsh sun during the day with minimal shelter. Out of a sense of guilt, he feels compelled to do something about it. But God says no. God tells David, in so many ways, I don’t need your pity. I don’t need your bricks and cement. I can stand on my own two feet.
Dear friends, that is what our preparation for Christmas is all about this year in particular. We might feel the need for a church building to worship in. We might feel the injustice of being able to gather here indoors, be it inside our homes, inside a store or workplaces, and then arrive here forced to pray outside in a tent. King David felt the same. If I can live in a house, then God should be able too as well.
The problem here is that David was telling God what was best for God . Should God live according to our standards or is it the other way round?
Although King David’s intention to build a temple for God is commendable, he is reminded through the prophet Nathan not to rely on a temple made by human hands. A temple made from bricks and cement will be destructible. God's Presence, the prophet announces, will instead be enfleshed in a future descendant of King David.
And when the fullness of time would come, as recounted in the Gospel, the creative God is seen working on his own design for a temple to dwell in - building within the womb of the Virgin Mary, using her cells and DNA as the building blocks, the new bricks and cement forming the new body and blood of a unique individual that through every instance of his existence and development in her womb, a tiny developing temple of the living God, was being built to endure forever. That, of course, is Jesus Christ, the great outdoors man, who feeds us, not with creature comforts, but with His very body and blood.
Through Holy Communion, even if only once a year, or even through the desire of Spiritual Communion from the depths of our heart, and even by the mere fact of our baptism, we share in the nature of the God underneath the Tent, the God made flesh and blood, born to face the elements of heat and cold, light and darkness, life, death and resurrection from the dead.
So, as we prepare for the Christmas season, we may grow frustrated like King David that God is met in the great outdoors. But is that not how he was born in Bethlehem just over two thousand years ago. He’s used to it. We’re not. But with His grace and following His lead, we can also be toughened up to make the necessary sacrifices for our own salvation and the salvation of the world inside or outside.