At I Kings 8:27, we find a haunting poignant question, “But will God indeed dwell on the earth?” That is from King Solomon's prayer when he dedicated the temple he had built in Jerusalem. He explained his question by stating the obvious, “Behold, heaven and the highest heaven cannot contain thee; how much less this house which I have built.” That is the kind of God which Solomon and the Israelite people believed in. Probably no other ancient people, Canaanite, Assyrian, Egyptian, or whatever, would have asked this. But the people who claimed the Lord God of hosts as their own God were bound to wrestle with this question, “Will God indeed dwell on the earth?”
Theologians have a word for what Solomon and all the Israelite people believed about their peculiar God. The word is transcendence. The Israelites believed that their God created all things in the beginning. Therefore they were quite sure He is before all things, above all things, greater than all things, more powerful than all things. Could a God so great make His home in this mere building, however splendid?
Yet this transcendent God, so utterly different from the gods of other nations, had seen fit to enter into a special covenant relationship with the nation of Israel, the descendants of Abraham to which Solomon and eventually Jesus belonged. That covenant is almost summed up in the Old Testament promise, “I will be your God, and you shall be my people.” Almost! There is a third part of that covenant we tend to forget: “I will dwell with you.”
That seems almost too good to be true. The God who created heaven and earth, who surpasses all things, who sits in judgment on all things—that very God has promised to come and dwell with them. In what we celebrate tonight we have the final answer to Solomon's question. Even if that temple of stone and cedar fell short of God's greatness, we have before us the flesh and blood evidence that God will indeed dwell with His people. “And Mary brought forth her firstborn son and laid him in a manger....And the Word was made flesh” (you know the rest!) “and dwelt among us.”
The God who cannot be enclosed in a huge building, no matter how magnificent, is now made flesh in the tiny infant lying on a bed of straw. What Solomon perhaps somehow foresaw was that this precious infant was his very own descendant, carrying his own DNA. So the answer to Solomon's question is an emphatic “Yes!” God does indeed dwell on earth, in the flesh and blood of Jesus Christ.
When that flesh and blood continue to become present before us, in the bread and wine on our Altar here, God indeed dwells in our earthy hearts by faith. And this God, whom the heaven itself cannot contain, has come to earth as a tiny infant and continues to give Himself in a tiny wafer and a sip of wine.