Advent is the time we celebrate that God is with us. Pleased as man with man to dwell, Jesus, our Immanuel, we belt. O come, o come Emmanuel, we sing. God immortal has taken on human flesh for a rescue mission. It’s humbling. It’s astonishing.
But maybe it shouldn’t be so surprising. After all, God has always been in the business of drawing near.
Take the creation account, for instance. God Almighty could have just clapped His hands and boom, there it was. But He didn’t. What’s the first thing He makes? The Sunday School answer is light (Genesis 1:3). The light He calls Day, and the darkness, Night. So broadly speaking, the first thing He makes is time. God the Eternal descends to finish His creation within the framework of mornings and evenings, hours and minutes. Eternity steps into time.
Then He calls the seas, the plants, the whales and ladybugs, the dirt and mountains and currents into being. Only after He’s prepared a home does He plunge His hands into the dirt and fashion a man. He has come to us before there was an us.
He walked with Adam and Eve in the garden; He did not burden them with finding a way to Heaven. And even when they disobeyed and ran away in shame, their Father sought them out and clothed them and set a plan in motion to give His people a way back to Him.
Later on, when God gives Moses the Law, He does not make Moses ascend to Heaven to get it. God gives Moses the home field advantage and meets him on Sinai. Exodus after the giving of the 10 Commandments is some pretty heady stuff. It’s all about the building of the tabernacle, what the priests should wear, how they should perform the rituals the Lord ordained. In chapter 29, there’s a long list of instructions for the consecration of the priests and for burnt offerings. We’re talking bulls and rams and unleavened bread and coats and sashes and garments. Words like wave offering and consecrate and ordination only underscore the solemnity and complexity of these instructions.
At the end of it, we find out what it’s all for:
It shall be a regular burnt offering throughout your generations at the entrance of the tent of meeting before the Lord, where I will meet with you, to speak to you there. There I will meet with the people of Israel, and it shall be sanctified by my glory. I will consecrate the tent of meeting and the altar. Aaron also and his sons I will consecrate to serve me as priests. I will dwell among the people of Israel and will be their God. And they shall know that I am the Lord their God, who brought them out of the land of Egypt that I might dwell among them. I am the Lord their God. (Exodus 29:42-46)