John 1:14 The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.
The man dressed in high priestly garb stands over the opened box. Lights are lit and cameras are rolling to record the momentous event. At first the box is only filled with sand. Suddenly, lights begin flashing and bulbs start exploding. Fog begins to pour out of the box and jets of light shoot upwards. The rays of light turn into ghostly beings that pass through the soldiers who are watching. Then beams of fiery light shoot out from the box and through the Nazi soldiers, killing them. The Nazi officer and Nazi spy melt and Belloq, the archeologist dressed as a high priest, blows up. Then fire comes from the box, the Ark of the Covenant, and consumes the bodies – except for Marion and Indiana Jones.
That is the dramatic sequence from “Raiders of the Lost Ark.”
What does “Raiders of the Lost Ark” have to do with Christmas Day? Even though it is one of the greatest movies in cinematic history, it doesn’t have anything to do with Christmas … or does it?
No, it doesn’t. The movie doesn’t have anything to do with Christmas, but the Ark of the Covenant displayed in the movie does.
The movie tries to display – with early 80s animation – the power and glory of God contained in the box of the Ark of the Covenant. The Old Testament of the Bible is much more descriptive … and accurate. The mercy seat on the Ark of the Covenant, where the wings of the cherubim (the two angels) met in the middle of the Ark, was where God would sit in light and cloud to speak with Moses inside the Lord’s tabernacle. When the Ark was taken into battle by the Israelites, God’s power would be with them to defeat their enemies. When the priests carrying the Ark stepped into the flooding waters of the Jordan River, the waters stopped flowing. When the Ark was captured in battle by the Philistines and placed in the temple of their fish god, Dagon, the next morning the Philistine’s idol had fallen on its face before the ark of the Lord, with its head and hands broken off.
In the Old Testament, God had put Himself in the box of the Ark of the Covenant. His power and glory were contained within that box.
Sadly, we like to put God in a box. We make God like a Jack in the box to spring up whenever we need Him to fix our problems. We make God like a genie in a bottle that we can rub with our prayers to get whatever we want from Him. We make God like medicine in a bottle so that we can get a dose of Jesus to cure our ailments and curb our immorality. We put God in an ornamental box on a shelf like another knick-knack that we can display for others to see the exterior of our Christianity and we can feel good about ourselves. We confine God in a box of our own rationale and reasoning so that if anything He says or does is outside that box then we can just dismiss it … and Him.
We cannot put God in a box.
God puts Himself in a box. First in the box of the Ark of the Covenant. Much more powerful and glorious and dangerous than even the movie displayed.
God put Himself in the box of human flesh. Much more powerful and glorious and gracious than we imagine. Not to destroy but to save.
“The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.”
80s movie magic can make spirits and light and fire shooting out from the Ark of the Covenant seem possible. But even our wildest imaginations cannot make God dwelling in human flesh seem possible. From our earthly perspective with our human eyes we wonder how this can be possible. From our perspective, the finite is not capable of the infinite. But with God, all things are possible. With God, the infinite is capable of confining Himself within the finite. On Christmas morning, eternity took on time and space, so you and I who live in time and space may take on eternity.
Imagine this: Jesus is the Word through whom the universe was spoken into existence. Yet He knew no words coming out of Mary’s womb and cooed like any other infant. The Son of God knows all things, yet He had to learn everything like a little child. The second person of the Trinity sees all things, yet He had to see through the two eyes of a human. God’s Son is present everywhere, yet He had to walk on dusty streets wherever He went.
What makes all of this even harder to grasp is in Christ, the infinite God not only embraces the finite world of mankind, but that He does so in spite of mankind’s resistance and rejection. “He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him” (John 1:11). Our sinful flesh crucified the Word made flesh when He came to redeem us.
In this we see the love of God for His creation. Because God is love, He cannot remain distant, aloof, far removed from His beloved. He embraces finite humanity with all our sins and weaknesses and limitations. He does this even against our own evil will. In His gracious will, He will not let our sin or our will stand in the way of His purpose and His desire.
“The Word became flesh and dwelt among us.” God does not deal with our sin and rejection in a remote and detached way. He became flesh. He became sin for us. He was rejected. Jesus was laid in a Bethlehem manger so that He might be nailed to a Roman cross. He did this so that men’s sins would not count against us, but counting our sins against the Word made flesh (2 Corinthians 5:19).
God put Himself in a box for our salvation. He continues to put Himself in a box in order to come to us, strengthen us, and save us. He puts Himself in the box of water in Holy Baptism. He puts Himself in the box of bread and wine in Holy Communion. He puts Himself in the voice box of absolution. He puts Himself in the box of the Bible.
God came to us in a box. Not to display His power and might in flashes of light or consuming fire, but to display His humility in grace and love.
God in a box. First in the Ark of the Covenant. Then in human flesh. In Jesus Christ so that we might say: “We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.” Amen.