Updated: Mar 28, 2020
One thing is certain in the Bible: in spite of our sin and failures, God wants our company. He certainly doesn’t need it or depend on it, but according to Scripture He actually wants it! Scripture is a story of God’s desire to be close to the pinnacle of His creative work. Right from the beginning of Scripture (Gen 3:8) to the very close of it (Rev 21:3), God makes His dwelling place amongst us. It’s a golden thread of pure delight.
Repeatedly He’s indicated His yearning to dwell with us. This beautiful thread of intimacy winds its way back and forth through the many stories we find in the Bible. Sometimes it’s strong and obvious – like in the Garden of Eden. Sometimes it’s broken and shocking – like Israel’s many idolatries. But always our Father took the necessary steps to knot the broken thread back together when it was broken by our sin.
It’s always there, this wondrous inexplicable Golden Thread, waiting to resurface into a glorious truth. He actually desires our company!
In Eden, He walked with Adam and Eve.
In the Wilderness, He led Israel by fire and cloud.
In the Tent and Temple, He dwelt in a cloud of Glory.
And of course, in Jesus, He came and lived among us.
Jesus would even be given a special name to highlight this wonder, Emmanuel: God with us (Matt 1:23 and compare Isa 7:14).
God would walk and talk as a Man; He would even experience ridicule, misunderstanding, even temptation (but without yielding to it).
The Messiah would be born into the human race as a Son, yet mysteriously (and importantly) keeping His divine nature intact.
He would be born in a small rather insignificant place called Bet-Lehem (Bethlehem) meaning “the house of bread”. How appropriate that Jesus would later call Himself “the bread of life” (John 6:35). As a side note Bet-Lehem can also be translated as “house of battle”. Either way, what a fitting place for the Messiah (both the Bread of Life and the ultimate Victor) to be born among men!
We know where He was born, but when was He born? At this time of year many people throughout the world will be celebrating “Christmas”, but most probably the Messiah wasn’t born on December 25th for a variety of reasons (see here and here). Quite likely it was more likely to have been sometime between September to October.
If that’s the case, it’s highly significant because that time of the year is the Jewish Feast of Tabernacles (or Booths). Like all Jews at the time of Jesus, He would’ve spent 33 years of His earthly life living for a week outside under a temporary dwelling booth (tabernacle), called a “sukkah”.
So there’s a remarkable connection between the Jewish practice of “tabernacling” in a temporary dwelling place, and God in Jesus dwelling temporarily among us in a human body. How wonderfully fitting that He who would dwell with mankind, should be born among men as God’s people dwelt in booths.
Now whether or not you adhere to the view that Jesus was born during or near the season of the Feast of Tabernacles, you can see the connection of what “tabernacling” means in the context of Christ’s birth (John 1:14 – “and the Word became flesh and tabernacled among us”).
As well, in John 7:37 Jesus seemed to reinforce this connection when He deliberately took the Feast of Tabernacles as an opportunity to speak about Himself.
Always it is God’s desire to have a close relationship with His people – to dwell with us – and so to begin that special dwelling at the season of the Feast of Tabernacles (also referred to as “the Feast of Indwelling”) is indeed spiritually appropriate.
Perhaps for some people it doesn’t really matter on what precise day Jesus was born, yet I can’t help but contemplate if there’s something wonderfully significant about what season He was truly born in.
What does matter, is that God’s purpose and plan for us is all tied up with the concept of “dwelling”.
That He should want to dwell with us, so that we in turn should spend an eternity dwelling back with Him. This is God’s final stage of the dwelling programme – Eternity.
God has already taken the first step in bridging the wide divide between us and Him. But we must next take the final step, of accepting Him through His son Jesus. Love in action.
“This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down His life for us” (1 John 3:16).
So we come to a summary of all this.
This is how Max Lucado put it. “He humbled Himself. He went from commanding angels, to sleeping in straw; from holding stars, to clutching Mary’s finger. The palm that held the universe, took the nail of a soldier. Why? Because that’s what love does”.
Be blessed as you remember this season, the wonder of a God who loves you so very much He desires to be in company with you!