Tent in the open fieldConsidering the average American may move nearly a dozen times in a lifetime, it’s rare that anyone settles down into a “permanent” residence. But we still have high hopes when getting nestled into new digs, and I remember the excitement of becoming a new homebuyer. Being able to really make a place feel like home is so wonderful. I think it is something built into us that we long for home. In fact, even as a rather mobile society, don’t we usually put off packing for vacation until the last moment, let alone packing a household? And that tendency is why I find Jesus’ willingness to give up his home in heaven to come to this earth not just remarkable, or endearing, but epic. Perhaps, if you watched the portrayal of his birth in the third part of History’s Bible series this week, you too were struck by the life he willingly chose to be born into. Why would he give up so much to come to earth as one of us? Is it because of the planet, or because of the people?

Well, let’s think about our relationship to this earth. On the one hand… humans are one type of God’s creatures made upon this planet. On the other hand… humans bear God’s image, and are therefore different from all the other creatures.

On the one hand… Star Trek’s fictional Captains Kirk and Picard would call earth an M-class planet—uniquely designed to support human life. On the other hand… God promises there is more (and better) to come: “Look! I am creating new heavens and a new earth—so wonderful that no one will even think about the old ones anymore” (Isaiah 65:17).

On the one hand… the Savior of humanity came to this earth as the manifestation of Old Testament shadows. On the other hand… the Savior of humanity, though he gave up heaven, was rejected by the very people he came to save, so the offer to become part of his family was extended to anyone who believes what he says and who he is.

It is the last comparison that I find so intriguing. The Old Testament (Hebrew Bible) describes the meeting-place where people went to be in God’s presence like this: the tabernacle, or tent, was covered with pelts, was placed in the midst of the camp of Israel, and was covered by God’s glory when the cloud of his presence rested upon it. This symbol demonstrated to the people that God is mighty and powerful, but very close by, and interested in relationship with his people. John, the New Testament gospel writer, masterfully applies this same imagery to Christ.

Check out John 1:14: “The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.” Without the context of the Hebrew Bible, the reader would still understand that John is telling us that Jesus came to live with people, and he clearly was sent from God. But the Jewish reader would understand John’s allusion to the tabernacle: “The Word became flesh…” (think of the animal skins covering the tent), “and made his dwelling among us…” (literally, the phrase is “tabernacled”). “We have seen his glory…” (remember the cloud of God’s presence). Jesus came and made a home with us, so we could be at home with him, not just in some future sense, but here… and now.

With Holy Week right around the corner, consider Christ’s sacrifice, to be born, live, and die on this earth. Why would he do it? Because the reward of regaining relationship with us was far greater to him than what he chose to give up. He came to pitch his tent among us, carry our burdens, and return us to right relationship with God.

Photo courtesy of Pixabay.

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