Mercy Seat and Manger — Hope of Advent

Scripture Focus: 2 Chronicles 3.1
1 Then Solomon began to build the temple of the Lord in Jerusalem on Mount Moriah, where the Lord had appeared to his father David. It was on the threshing floor of Araunah the Jebusite, the place provided by David.

Luke 1.34-38
34 “How will this be,” Mary asked the angel, “since I am a virgin?”

35 The angel answered, “The Holy Spirit will come on you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the holy one to be born will be called the Son of God. 36 Even Elizabeth your relative is going to have a child in her old age, and she who was said to be unable to conceive is in her sixth month. 37 For no word from God will ever fail.”

38 “I am the Lord’s servant,” Mary answered. “May your word to me be fulfilled.” Then the angel left her.

Reflection: Mercy Seat and Manger — Hope of Advent
By John Tillman

Temples intend to overlap the mundane and the mystical, allowing humans to interact with gods. The holiest place in the Temple was “the mercy seat,” where human guilt was confronted by God’s righteousness and mercy. The Temple site on Mount Moriah was a place of confrontation and sacrifice long before the Temple was built. 

David purchased Araunah’s threshing floor as a place of sacrifice for his own sin. (1 Chronicles 21) David chose plague as punishment, but God stayed the sword of the death angel on the threshing floor. Then David said, “I, the shepherd, have sinned…These are but sheep…let your hand fall on me…do not let this plague remain on your people.”

Abraham was sent to this mountain to offer Isaac as a sacrifice, but God stayed his knife, providing a ram in Isaac’s place and fulfilling Abraham’s promise to Isaac as they traveled, “God himself will provide the lamb.” (Genesis 22.8)

John the Baptizer calls Jesus “the lamb of God” (John 1.29, 36) but also describes him as coming “to clear his threshing floor…gather the wheat into his barn, but…burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire.” (Luke 3.17)

Threshing separates grain from chaff and produces seed and food from grass that would otherwise fade away. It brings life from death. The place where Araunah threshed wheat was a place where the Lord threshed human hearts. It is a place where the holy confronts the unholy. (Isaiah 6.5) In that holiest place, we find mercy and hope.

John says Jesus “tabernacled” among us. (John 1.14) Jesus is where human space overlaps divine space—a Temple that comes to us. Jesus is our mercy seat, the holy one in whom we hope. The mercy seat and the manger represent God’s throne. In the gold-covered room, we glimpse his glory and worth. In the humble manger, he shows us ours.

David met an angel, made a sacrifice, and prepared a place to welcome God’s presence. Generations later, David’s daughter, Mary, did the same to welcome Jesus.

David and Solomon built God a house with rooms covered in gold. Through Mary, Jesus chose to house himself in a poverty-stricken womb.

David, the shepherd, sinned, bringing punishment on his sheep. Jesus, the shepherd, is sinless, taking punishment for his sheep. 

Jesus stays the sword of judgment and knife of sacrifice, providing himself as the lamb.

Jesus threshes life out of death.

Divine Hours Prayer: The Refrain for the Morning Lessons
This is the Lord’s doing, and it is marvelous in our eyes. — Psalm 118.23

– From The Divine Hours: Prayers for Summertime by Phyllis Tickle.

Today’s Readings
2 Chronicles 3-4   (Listen 5:42)
Psalms 108-109 (Listen 4:28)

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Of Waiting and Giving :: Hope of Advent

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Scripture Focus: 1 John 3.16-18
This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters. If anyone has material possessions and sees a brother or sister in need but has no pity on them, how can the love of God be in that person? Dear children, let us not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth.

Reflection: Of Waiting and Giving :: Hope of Advent
By John Tillman

Advent, which could be a pleasant time of anticipating God’s gift, has become a stressful time of accumulating other gifts. 

Rather than counting the days until the gift of Christ is given, we count the days left to purchase gifts for others. Blessing others with generosity is a good practice all year long, but consumer culture twists gift-giving into a selfish game of reciprocation. We give presents in order to get them as well.

The two practices could not have more different effects on our souls. As we count diminishing shopping days, the weighty dread of worldly expectations is piled upon us like the debt we incur through our spending. As we count diminishing days until the gift of Christ arrives, the heady joy of heavenly expectations lifts our souls, removing the debt we incur through our sin.

So do we boycott giving? By no means.

No matter how twisted our culture becomes, there are always ways to live redemptively in it. Christians have always excelled at reclaiming customs fouled by greed (or any other form of sin or idolatry) and refurbishing them with a gospel flair. 

So as you hear the trumpeting of diminishing shopping days, pushing you toward consumeristic fervor,  think of the trumpets that will announce Christ’s second advent that will bring an end to striving and selfishness.

As you purchase gifts for those dear to you, remember how dear you are to God that he would spend so recklessly to redeem you.

As you push through throngs and mobs of travelers and shoppers, remember the throngs of travelers that filled Bethlehem’s beds, pushing our outcast Savior to sleep in a manger. Think of the crowds that pressed in, hoping to hear his message. Think of the mobs who beat, spit on, and stripped him, nailing him to the cross as he fulfilled the gospel on our behalf.

And as you remember how Christ gave…give, and give, and give. What are you waiting for? 

Give to those around you, to your loved ones, and to those organizations making a difference in the world. Give to those who can’t give back. Give until the only explanation for your generosity is that Christ is giving through you.

Divine Hours Prayer: The Call to Prayer
Let us make a vow to the Lord our God and keep it; let all around him bring gifts to him who is worthy to be feared. — Psalm 76.11

– From The Divine Hours: Prayers for Autumn and Wintertime by Phyllis Tickle.

Today’s Readings
2 Chronicles 3-4 (Listen -5:42) 
1 John 3 (Listen -3:21)

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