When we’re expecting company, we all chip in and prepare the place, don’t we? Of course, our clean-up mirrors the occasion, from a general “straightening up” for the close friend stopping by for coffee to a full-fledged, top-to-bottom, spit-polish cleaning for holidays with family. (OK, ixnay on the spit part.)
As God revealed Himself to His people, they painstakingly prepared a tent of worship, a place where He would dwell in their midst. Then upon completion, “the glory of the Lord filled the tabernacle”1 so not even Moses could enter it. Years later when Israel had become a nation, the people built a temple for God, and again, the priests could not perform their service, “for the glory of the Lord filled the temple of God.”2
Neither tent nor temple was close enough to us for God, however, nor were the sacrifices offered there sufficient for righting our wrongs. Instead, God would come and live as one of us, sharing our experience, as prophesied through King David and quoted in the letter to the Hebrews: “Sacrifice and offering you did not desire, but a body you prepared for me; with burnt offerings and sin offerings you were not pleased. Then I said, ‘Here I am—it is written about me in the scroll—I have come to do your will, O God.’”3 God himself prepared a place for His Son to live and love among us; He prepared a physical body for His Spirit to inhabit. And so we have the Christmas story, the angel declaring, “Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.”4 God the Father had sent God the Spirit to prepare a place for God the Son.
The story does not end with Jesus’ incarnation, nor, for that matter, His ascension. For Jesus rose with a mission now familiar to us: “I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am.”5
Our salvation is entirely the initiative of God. He prepared a place for His Son to live for a time among us, and His Son prepares now a place for us to live forever with Himself. What is this place like? Indescribable. No eye has seen it; no mind has conceived it. But this we do know: it has been painstakingly prepared for us by the One who is faithful to His promises.
Lord Jesus, live in my innermost being and prepare me for the place you have prepared for me. Send your Spirit to live in me today, that I would live with you forever. Amen.
1 Exodus 40:35
2 2 Chronicles 5:14
3 Hebrews 10:5-7
4 Matthew 1:20, 21
5 John 14:2, 3