The Temple in the Manger - A Christmas letter
By Matthew Roberts, 22 Dec 2017
Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ
We have been studying Solomon and his temple in 1 Kings in our small groups for the last couple of months. The more we look at the temple the more astounding it is. The stone and cedar and gold must have been incredible to see. But what was truly amazing is that this was where God, in fulfilment of his promise to Abraham and to Moses, lived on earth in the midst of his people. When the ark of the covenant was first brought into the temple, the burning glory-cloud of God’s presence moved into this building, so that the bronze and gold were outshone by the incredible brightness of God’s glory. And this glory was living in the middle of his people, so that they could know him, they could come near him, they could trust him for the future, and they could worship him as man was supposed to do.
But all this was just a foretaste. Of the day when God would really dwell with men. Beginning on Christmas day.
Because on Christmas Day the temple of God was in a manger.
For Jesus is God dwelling with man in a way far more wonderful than the temple was. All the glory of the temple only pointed to Jesus. For as he was born, there appeared to the world all the glory of God truly dwelling with his people. For this child was, and as a man still is, God himself present in human flesh, united in the one person of Jesus Christ. He is the temple of God.
And so on Christmas day, All our knowledge of God was in the manger. We can only know God at all because God made himself known by God the Son, the Word, becoming flesh (John 1:18). Everything every Christian has ever known about God was contained in the manger. For in him are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge (Colossians 2:3). It is in and through Christ that God has made himself known to us.
And on Christmas day, All our hope for the future was in the manger. The entire human race, doomed to die under the weight of our sins and wickednesses, has only ever had one hope of salvation. One hope of escaping from the poison of our hearts, our love for evil, our destruction of one another and ourselves. That one hope was promised by God in the garden of Eden as the coming seed of the woman, a promise which gained more detail, but not more certainty, as God expanded it to Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Moses, David and Solomon. That one hope was of the coming anointed king who would be God himself in human flesh; and who would give himself up, body and soul, to death in order to deliver us, body and soul, from death. That was who was lying in the manger. In him was and still is our only hope for forgiveness, for rescue from the power of sin, for deliverance from the grave.
And on Christmas day, All God’s love for us and ours for him was in the manger. We were made to come near to God, to know God, to serve God; we were made more than anything to love God. But the love we owed God we have lavished on everything and anything but God. And yet he loved us. All his desire to save his people, to live with his people, to restore his people so that they could share in the infinite love which he eternally has been in himself was poured into and expressed in his Son, whom he sent to earth to love us. And by loving us, through the humiliation of the stable and the cross, to cause us to love him. We love him because he first loved us (1 John 4:19). It is only because on that day the eternal God in his infinite love lay in a manger as a human baby that we have come to love him at all. That we have come to know the God who is love. That we know what real love is and what it is really to love.
Jesus Christ is the temple. God dwelling with man. No longer in the manger, but today risen and reigning in heaven. In him, all the fullness of God dwells bodily (Colossians 2:9). In him, God dwelling among us, we can know God, come near to God, trust God for the future, and worship and love God as we have always been supposed to do.
May God bless you all, through his Son, the temple in the manger, this Christmas.