|12 - Sunday Before Christmas: Christ in You, Dec 20, 2015 (with audio)|
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Hebrews 11:9-10, 17-23, 32-40
It says that Abraham sojourned in the land of promise, i.e., Canaan; and yet, he still looked for a City having foundations, whose builder and fashioner is God (Heb 11:9ff.). Nor did any of the other holy ones of the OT, so St Paul writes, receive what was promised, viz., the inheritance promised by God (Heb 11:40). They were seeking, he says, a better country, even a heavenly homeland (11:16), i.e. one not of this world. St Paul’s point is that they knew in faith that the land of Palestine was not the Promised Land and so not the promised inheritance, and so the city of Jerusalem was not the City of God.
Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, St Paul says, were living in tents as they sojourned (v. 9). “While we are still in this tent,” St Paul says in another place, “we sigh with anxiety.” (II Cor 5:4) St Peter writes, “I know that the putting off of my tent-body (skenoma) will be soon” (II Pet 1:14) Of the LORD Jesus Christ coming into the world, St John says: “And the Word became flesh and pitched His tent among us” (Jn 1:14). In another place, the LORD says, “Destroy this temple (meaning, His Body) and in three days I will raise it up.” (Jn 2:19) And St Paul, again in Hebrews, writes of the High Priest going but once a year, and that not without blood, into the Holy of Holies: “By this the Holy Spirit was indicating that the way into the Holy of Holies [of the better, heavenly City], would not be manifest so long as the first tent [i.e., the temple of Christ’s earthly body] was still standing” (Heb 9:8).
St Matthew’s “Book of the Genealogy of Jesus Christ,” traces Jesus’ ancestry back to King David and Abraham. It is Jesus’ human ancestry through His Mother, not through Joseph. Note the formula in St Matthew’s genealogy: the male begat so and so; but, when we come to Joseph, it says, “Jacob begat Joseph, the husband of Mary of whom Jesus was born” (v. 16). For, Joseph did not beget Jesus. It says, “When His Mother, Mary was betrothed to Joseph, she was found already to be with Child of the Holy Spirit” (v. 18). Now, Joseph was a righteous man, it says. That’s why he wanted to divorce Mary. But, that he did not divorce her and took her as his wife proves conclusively that he was a righteous man. It speaks to his obedience to the word of the LORD he received from the angel, to take Mary as his wife because the Child in her womb was conceived of the Holy Spirit. By taking Mary as his wife when she was already with Child, he became a prophet telling forth (prophesying) by his action the fulfillment of Isaiah’s prophecy, “Behold, a Virgin shall conceive.” (Mat 1:23)
And, like the Mighty River coming forth from the Gate of the Temple that remained shut in Ezekiel’s vision and flowed all the way into Galilee (cf. Eze 47:8 LXX) healing and making alive everything it touched (Eze 44:2 & 47:1ff.), God the Word came forth from the Virgin in the tent, the body, built for Him from His maternal ancestors.
The “Book of the Genealogy of Jesus Christ”, then, sets before us how the Body of the Blessed Virgin was being fashioned throughout the generations as the Holy Temple of God(cf. II Cor 6:16) from the loins of Abraham as from the dead (cf. Heb 11:12). In the Sanctuary of her Virginal womb, God would fashion the Tent of His Human Body that He received from her; and He who was in the Form of God would be found in the Form of Man, becoming obedient as the New Adam even to the point of death on the Cross (Phil 2:6-8) that He might destroy the devil and deliver us from death. (Heb 2:14) Jesus Christ is the Word – or the Meaning (the Logos) – of this Book written by the history of Israel. That Meaning, our epistle reading tells us this morning, has to do with receiving the inheritance promised by God; and, that promised inheritance is a heavenly City having foundations, whose builder and fashioner is God. What might that foundation be? Is it not the crucified Body of Christ, the Stone rejected by the builders and laid dead in the tomb. Here is the Paschal Wonder that is the Word of Noel (Good News!) in the Book of Christmas: the Foundation of the Heavenly City for which Abraham was waiting is to be found in the Tomb of Christ; i.e., in the tomb of the human heart (cf. St Macarius, Homily 11.11) that is deep beyond all things (Jer 17:5, OSB).
For, the foundation of the temple or tent of our earthly body is the seed of Adam. In His disobedience, death spread to all men (Rom 5:12), tearing our earthly life like a vine out of its native “soil” in the Image and Likeness of God and transplanting it in the tomb of death: from the dust you came, to the dust shall you return (Gen 3:19). So, why did Adam call his wife, Eve, “Mother of the Living”? Now we can read in the Book of the Genealogy of Jesus Christ that Adam was a prophet, foretelling that the woman would become the Mother of God, the Mother of Him Who Is Himself the Resurrection and the Life. (Jn 11:25)
St Matthew’s Book of the Genealogy of Jesus Christ, then, is setting before us the “mystery of God that was hidden from the ages and from the generations.” That mystery“now is made manifest to His saints. It is, Christ in you, the hope of glory.” (Colossians 1:27) Conceived by the Holy Spirit in the womb of the Blessed Virgin and becoming flesh, the Image of God in whom we were made (Col 1:15) has refashioned the tent of our earthly body on a new foundation, the Seed of God (I Pt 1:23) having filled our death with the Living Waters of His Holy Spirit.
Here, beloved faithful, let us announce with the angels the Noel of Christmas in the Joy of the Feast: the Son of God is born of the Virgin and becomes the Son of Man that we can become children of God. He who was without Mother and without genealogy now has a Mother and a human ancestry, and now we can call God, “Our Father who art in Heaven.”
For, Christ is in you! The Resurrection is in you! The Life of the Holy Spirit is in you! The Kingdom of Heaven – the promised Inheritance Abraham was looking for – is within you (Lk 17:21)! By your holy Baptism, you have put on Christ. You have been written into the Book of the Genealogy of Christ, for you have become a child of God (Jn 1:12).
We live now with Abraham in the tents of these our earthly bodies. And, our sojourn is to the tomb of Christ, for that is where we come upon the Gates of the Heavenly City. The Word, then, that gives meaning to the book of our life is the command to put to death all that is earthly in us (Col 3:5) that the tent of our earthly body may be destroyed as was His (cf. Jn 2;19) and transfigured in the power and joy of His Holy Resurrection into a living stone built into a spiritual temple (I Pt 2:5) in whom the Spirit of God dwells (I Cor 6:19).
In coming to the Feast of Christmas, then, do you see that we are coming to the Cave of Bethlehem already as to the Tomb of Christ so that already, we are drawing near to the Gates of the Heavenly City for which all the holy ones of the OT were waiting for in the Coming of Christ so that they would not be made perfect apart from us? The foundation of that city is outside the city (cf. Jn 19:17) of this world. That foundation is found in the tomb of Christ; i.e., in the tomb of our heart that is deep beyond all things (Jer 17:5 OSB). It is the cornerstone of the precious and most pure Body of Christ that He received from the Holy Virgin. Beloved faithful, here again let us announce the Noel of Christmas: as we carry in the tent of our earthly body the death of Jesus (cf. II Cor 4:10), we carry within us the foundation of that Heavenly City Abraham was waiting for, and the Life of Jesus is made manifest in our bodies as it was made manifest in Temple of the OT.
The Glory of God filled the OT Temple so that no one could enter (cf. Ex 40:34-35 & I Kgs 8:11 & II Chron 7:1-2 & Eze 43:5 & 44:4). Beloved faithful, in Holy Eucharist, that very Glory would fill the tent of our earthly body! May that Glory Himself, Jesus Christ, (Col 1:27) fill the tent of your body in the Joy of the Feast! Glory to Jesus Christ! Most holy Theotokos, save us! Amen