by Christopher Harbin

Heavenly Dwelling
Christopher B. Harbin
2Sm 7:1-11, 16; Ps 89:1-4, 19-26; Lk 1:26-38; Rm 16:25-27

Religion is interesting. We say that what matters is worshipping God, but we pay more attention to its symbols and forms than the God we claim to worship. Currently, much is said about the importance of doctrine, but each one has his own doctrine. We say that ritual forms are important for their meaning, but we are enslaved by their means. We claim to gather in celebration and worship of God present in a Bethlehem manger, but we do not allow God to be present in our lives. God wants to be present among us. Do we truly open our lives to be God's dwelling, or do we simply repeat the phrase as one more religious formula? How do we recover the true meaning of Christmas?

David lived in a time with different religious rituals. We might like to think that religion, ritual, and worship were much more fluid in his day. After all, there was no Temple; there were no pews or hymnal racks; there were no worship bulletins, pianos, organs, or worship houses every three miles down the road. Denominational missions sending agencies had not been created. There was no seminary or publishing house--not even a conference center or Sunday School quarterlies. God's house of worship was a tent whose resting place would move with the times.

There were plenty of established patterns in worship, however. The Mosaic code defined how sacrifice was to be performed, which animals were acceptable for what kinds of offerings, that there were to be no idols or images used in worship, and a host of patterns to keep the people and worship from being ritually polluted. They may not have had the formal codes of worship as we find them in our Pentateuch, but they had at least some oral version of the same.

David knew as well as the next Israelite that there were all sorts of regulations on worship, but he also had some sense that worship went beyond regulation and ritual. Worshi ...

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