Christmas Day in 2013 Ex. 40 Jn 1 (1-year series)
How Much Greater This Dwelling of God Among Us Is!
Vicar Paul Rockrohr


Let the words of my mouth and the meditations of our hearts be acceptable in Your sight, O Lord, our Rock and our Redeemer. Amen.


“Then the cloud covered the tent of meeting, and the glory of the Lord filled the tabernacle…for the cloud of the Lord was on the tabernacle by day, and fire was in it by night, in the sight of all the house of Israel throughout all their journeys.”


What if one Sunday you were to come to Luther Memorial Chapel only to find a cloud so thick and heavy that you could not go through the door? Or perhaps you come to Divine service on Monday night to find it full of fire but not being consumed? It would be a cloud and fire so great that all of Milwaukee would be able to see it. It would be a truly awesome and awful sight, inspiring and frightening at the same time. Standing in view of such a thing, it would certainly lead one to say that the Almighty God is present in that place. Indeed, how could one doubt it?


Christmas Day in 2013 Ex. 40 Jn 1 (1-year series)
How Much Greater This Dwelling of God Among Us Is!
Vicar Paul Rockrohr


Let the words of my mouth and the meditations of our hearts be acceptable in Your sight, O Lord, our Rock and our Redeemer. Amen.


“Then the cloud covered the tent of meeting, and the glory of the Lord filled the tabernacle…for the cloud of the Lord was on the tabernacle by day, and fire was in it by night, in the sight of all the house of Israel throughout all their journeys.”


What if one Sunday you were to come to Luther Memorial Chapel only to find a cloud so thick and heavy that you could not go through the door? Or perhaps you come to Divine service on Monday night to find it full of fire but not being consumed? It would be a cloud and fire so great that all of Milwaukee would be able to see it. It would be a truly awesome and awful sight, inspiring and frightening at the same time. Standing in view of such a thing, it would certainly lead one to say that the Almighty God is present in that place. Indeed, how could one doubt it?


From time to time, in reading the Old Testament, I have become very jealous to see what they saw. What it must have been like, to see the Red Sea parted and walk across on dry ground. Or to eat manna that was picked off the ground. Or to hear God speak from the cloud on Mt. Sinai, surely it must have been amazing. In fact, we know it was amazing to hear the voice of God as He spoke to the people, so amazing that it terrified them and they became like dead men. They begged Moses to intercede for them, to speak to God on their behalf and to speak for God to them. Thus, the law was given through Moses, the people heard the Word of God in his preaching to them. As he spoke to the people the will of God for them, they truly heard him as if it were God Himself speaking to them. It must have been incredible to see those things, how could one ever doubt God in the presence of the glory cloud?


Yet they did, time and again. How many times did they doubt and rebel? Yahweh promised to go into the land of Canaan before them, to conquer peoples stronger than them for them but they doubted and refused to enter the first time. Time and again they grumbled and complained, even rebelled, with the presence of God in their midst. It would be tempting to say that we would be different, but that would be naïve. Neither miracles nor the Law solved the greatest problem of God’s presence. Yes, the glory of the Lord dwelled in their midst, but they could not come into the presence of God. The glory of God, the heaviness of His presence prevented even Moses from entering the Tabernacle. It was too much, a burden too great, to enter into God’s presence. There was still separation between God and His people, nearness, but separation. To be within sight of God’s presence but not able to see His face for fear of death, that is not full relationship. It is lacking, even a bit disheartening.


That separation, the lack of being in the fullness of the presence of God, causes a yearning for it to be a reality. Not one of the prophets wanted the status quo. Not one wanted to remain in a visible relationship that had separation. They all looked forward to the promised Messiah, including Moses who prophesied about Jesus right before his death. What we celebrate today is something far greater than a cloud or fire. It is the fullness of God, all of His glory, wrapped up not in smoke but in flesh. The heaviness of the cloud prevented Moses from entering the tabernacle. But when the Son of God took on flesh nothing separated Him from His mother. This gift, this child born to us, has removed the veil of the Law.


A greater thing is now here! For the Word has become flesh and dwells among us, full of grace and truth. His glory is not glory seen by separation from us because of His holiness. His glory is to give life where there is only death, to be a light shining in the darkness. Once the fire in the tabernacle revealed the presence of God during the night, but now God reveals His presence by His Christ. No longer is it necessary to journey to the tabernacle to meet with God, He has tabernacle with us by His Son. No longer is there need to fear seeing the face of God, for He has humbled Himself, taking on your flesh. We did not choose to dwell with Jesus; He chose to dwell with us. He chose to die for us. His bloody death is the glory that John refers to, “and we have seen His glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.” Only the Son could be a sufficient sacrifice to redeem the world from sin. Once, the glory of God would have consumed sin and those covered with it by fire. The glory of Christ is His precious blood shed, consuming sin and covering you in His righteousness. And so it is He that over comes the curse of the Law for us, tearing away the veil of sin and death that separated us from Him. By His own death He has given you the right to be children of God, children of the author of life by whom you live and breathe.


The tabernacle, the manna, the crossing of the Red Sea, even the cloud of glory that dwelled in the camp are all shadows of this child whose birth we celebrate today. They appear to the eye to be amazing and wonderful, but see how they point to greater things that only come with the true and full presence of God amongst His people in the man Jesus. To see the high walls of water and pass through on dry ground, yes that is something. But the Word became flesh and dwells with us. A man was baptized in a muddy river called the Jordan and heaven opened, the Father declaring that this is my beloved son. In His baptism Jesus took on the sins of the whole world, purifying all waters for our own baptism into Him. Yes, to see Egypt drowned in the sea caused the Israelites to break out in song for their bondage in physical slavery was ended. But when a little water is poured over a child in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, the angels sing because slavery to sin and death is defeated! For in that water a far greater thing happens, the Old Adam is drowned and a new man in Christ is born. That child, each one of you, has become the child of the Father, the water and Word killing but also giving new life!


It would be something to hear God speak from the cloud at Mt. Sinai, thunderous voice that is terrifying. But how much greater and more wonderful is it now that God speaks to you through His Son? The Israelites could not stand the voice of God. But the Word became flesh and dwells among us. The voice of Jesus carries such wonderful sweetness and grace as He comforts the terrified sinner. In the face of the harsh accusations of the Law, which was given through Moses, Christ speaks to you in grace and truth. He does not lie and say you are perfect and sinless, instead he acts. He saves you, not because of your works but according to His own mercy. With His mouth He declares you innocent by His grace. In such speaking there is nothing terrifying about Him, rather you come and listen to Him as He speaks to you by His Word.
It would be something to get up in the morning and find our daily bread on the ground, just waiting to be picked up. But the Word became flesh and dwells among us. See now, how much greater is the Bread of Life that you receive at this altar today? This is not just bread, which rots and decays if not used. This is the true body and true blood of Jesus, it is the bread that sustains you to life everlasting rather than just to tomorrow. This bread is only possible because Christ dwells with you bodily. If it were a cloud or fire, then there would be no gift for you on this table because there would be no body to eat, no blood to drink. The sacrifices and Passovers were a shadow of this, the fullness of Christ’s love for you. Here you eat true body and drink true blood in remembrance of Him, that is, recognizing that He is the one who here is dwelling with you. It is He who feeds you through the hands of the pastor. All this, because God took on flesh and was born of the Virgin Mary on this day so many years ago.


Christ, in His fullness, is present in this place, giving to you gifts far more wonderful than the eye can comprehend. On this day, this Christmas, we celebrate the end of shadowy prefigures. We celebrate the fullness of God’s presence among us, in His Son, for the Word became flesh and dwells among us. We do not yet see Him bodily as we will when He comes again, but there is no doubt that He is with us bodily. The full presence of God means that He is truly with us. He is the one that washes in waters of regeneration and renewal. He is the one that speaks words of grace and truth to you. He is the one that feeds you while being the meal himself. All of this came to pass because the Word became flesh and dwelled among us. May Christ dwell with you this Christmas season! Amen.

Luther Memorial Chapel & University Student Center | 3833 N Maryland Ave | Shorewood, WI  53211
(414) 332-5732 |lmcusc@lmcusc.org

Divine Service: Sundays - 9:00a Mondays - 7:00p Bible Study & Sunday School: Sundays - 10:45a