Are You Prepared to Be a Home for Christ?
December 23, 2012
Micah 5:2-5a; Psalm 80:1-7; Hebrews 10:5-10, Luke 1:39-45, (46-55)
Pastor Mary Blessing,
St. Philip’s Episcopal Church, Scotts Valley, CA
[“Collect: Purify our conscience, Almighty God, by your daily visitation, that your Son Jesus Christ, at his coming, may find in us a mansion prepared for himself; who lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.”]
Are you prepared to be a home for Jesus Christ? Are you prepared to be like Mary, THEOTOKOS—
“God-bearer”? As our opening prayer today says: will your body be a mansion prepared for Jesus Christ—
truly letting Jesus Christ move in permanently to reign in your heart?
I invite you to take this invitation seriously. To do so, I will use the Gospel of Luke as my text. We will consider Mary, the mother of Jesus, Elizabeth, the mother of John the Baptist, and Zechariah, the father of John the Baptist. Perhaps as we study how these 3 prepared themselves to receive the indwelling of God
we can gain insights into our own willingness to receive Christ in our lives. For most of us, receiving Christ is something that happens in stages. These Biblical characters can give us some insight into how to move through those stages.
We just heard Luke’s story of Mary and Elizabeth, two women who did not “expect to be expecting”, but here they are, finally visiting one another—babies leaping in utero! Perhaps you will recall that Luke is the only Gospel that offers us this detailed birth narrative which actually begins with the remarkable story of Zechariah, father of John the Baptist. [Luke 1:5-25]
Zechariah was a priest of the temple in charge of burning incense in the Holy Place where only priests could enter. He was a dutiful man of God, working to prepare God’s house for all who entered to feel at home in a sacred place. Zechariah had no children, and was getting on in age. One day while performing his priestly duties the Angel Gabriel came to him and announced that he was to be father of a messenger who would proclaim the coming of the Son of God, the Christ. Zechariah spent his life inviting God to enter his life, but when Gabriel made his announcement, Zechariah did not believe. After all, he and his wife were too old to have children. For his disbelief, Zechariah was silenced until the birth of his son, John.
Zechariah was one who faithfully showed up, going through the motions of creating a “home” for God, but when the time came to BE the home of God, he faltered. He wasn’t so sure he really wanted God to move in permanently. Zechariah’s wife, Elizabeth, did indeed become pregnant. Elizabeth hid herself for 5 months. She accepted that God had somehow managed to work a miracle in her, and she was grateful, but she must have had some reservations, until the visitation of her cousin, Mary—why else was she hiding?
In Elizabeth’s 6th month of pregnancy, Gabriel went to Mary, in Nazareth, and announced that Mary also would conceive a Son, whom she would name Jesus. Mary was initially quite troubled, wondering how this could be, since she was not married. But soon she found herself saying “yes, I am God’s servant, let it be so.”
Elizabeth and Mary impress me as they not only “go through the motions” of wanting to prepare a home for God, but they quite literally allow God to “move in”. Elizabeth experiences the indwelling of the Holy Spirit as she receives Mary at her doorstep. The child within her leaps for joy, and Elizabeth’s life is changed forever.
Mary could not have possibly had any idea what it would mean to completely receive the Overshadowing of God’s Holy Spirit, allowing her body to become the earthly home of Christ—a “mansion prepared for Jesus Christ, Son of God.” But that is what she did. And in those early days of pregnancy, Luke would claim, Mary’s heart was filled with such joy she sang with praise and thanksgiving that someone as lowly and insignificant as she could be “God-bearer,” the home of Christ.
Now, you will recall that my question for you today is “Are YOU prepared to be a home for Christ?” Because as we make our annual remembrance of the birth of Jesus through his mother Mary, we are also invited to think about how we might birth the presence of the living Christ in our own lives. Luke never intended this story to remain simply an historic event to be remembered, but to be a story that offers us inspiration regarding our own place in becoming “God-bearers”.
13th C. German Monk, Meister Eckhart wrote:
“We are all meant to be mothers of God. What good is it to me if this eternal birth of the divine Son takes place unceasingly, but does not take place within myself? And what good is it to me if Mary is full of grace if I am not also full of grace? What good is it to me for the Creator to give birth to his son if I do not also give birth to him in my time and my culture? This, then is the fullness of time: When the Son of Man is begotten in us.”*
To be a God-bearer, to be a “mother of God, full of grace” you must meet Christ at the door of your heart, truly inviting him in, and letting him reign in your life. Can you do it?
And just to be sure we don’t see this being “mother of God” as too much of a feminine enterprise, I will consider a more universal metaphor that men, women and even children can all consider.
Think for a moment just what it is like to have house-guests. This time of year many of us have worked hard to clean our homes in preparation for relatives to visit. We put up a tree, set out special decorations, and stock the refrigerator. For the most part we are delighted to see our loved ones and spend some special time together. But let’s be honest, how easy would it be if the guests we invited into our homes came in and began to “reign in our lives?” What if Auntie Gladys decided to rearrange your living room furniture? And then she came in the kitchen and told you how you should buy healthier food, and cook it HER way? What if Uncle Joe started going through your garage throwing away all those “treasures” you’ve been saving since college? How eager would you be to have these house guests remain in your home?
You see, receiving Christ at the door of your heart is only the first step. Zechariah encountered God coming right into his Holy Place, but Zechariah sort of held him at arms’ length, not really opening the door until he had 9 months to see Gabriel’s message come to full fruition. Some of you may be right there, on the other side of the door, somewhat aware that he is waiting outside to be invited in, but holding Christ at arms’ length, not quite ready to open the door. Not ready to make your life Christ’s home.
Some of you may be like Elizabeth, receiving Christ, but hiding away, afraid of what that really means, not ready to go out revealing to the world this new joy in your heart. Until encouraged by another.
Others of you may have had the joy of opening the door and finding a warm embrace with Christ—your heart leaps with joy and the Holy Spirit fills you, as Elizabeth greeting Mary. But are you willing to let him “reign” in your life—truly rule your life? Are you willing to let Christ fully take over your life, moving into every room, tossing out things that clutter and distract your life?
It is hard to fully embrace Christ, to let your body, mind and spirit be so filled with Christ’s presence that he fully rules your life. But there are benefits.
What were the benefits Zechariah, Elizabeth and Mary received by fully giving their lives to be God’s home? Zechariah got the opportunity to speak again, and to sing God’s praises for the glory of having a son of destiny. Elizabeth also received the benefit of fulfilling her life desire to be a mother, to have her life redeemed, and to be filled with God’s Holy Spirit.
Mary received the benefit of having her life transformed. While there was tremendous sacrifice for this blessed woman, she also somehow knew she had a unique role in the history of mankind and throughout the universe: she was the one human being in special partnership with God’s incarnation. . Mary received the benefit of knowing there was to be a reversal of fortune for all who were oppressed, because she made her body, mind and spirit a home for Christ. Mary is a figure as well-known as her beloved Son. All generations call her blessed. By being full of Grace, she knew an eternal joy, which sustained her through every heartache.
What would be the benefits to your life if you were to truly make your body a mansion for Jesus Christ to dwell AND to allow him to reign fully?
Christmas is coming. The Christ Child will be born soon. We are reminded that Jesus Christ will come again. Now, you may not want Aunt Gladys or Uncle Joe to move in permanently, but: Are you prepared to be a mansion for Jesus Christ, Son of God? Are you prepared to allow Jesus Christ to move in permanently and to reign in every room of your life? AMEN
[*Meister Eckhart, quoted from meditation, Eagles Wings Ministries.]