Over the last few years each church in our pastoral area has had some major works carried out. At great cost we try to keep them sound and safe, and still open and operable, even if only on an irregular basis like St Gregory’s. We make all possible effort for various reasons: emotional attachment, family connections, our personal stories, and so on. But the main reason is that we still believe that this building provides special and spiritual space for meeting God. This idea of a somehow sacred place is so common that temples of some sort dot practically every human settlement, even if it takes the form of a sacred stone, tree or mountain. The people of Israel, wandering in the desert after leaving Egypt, built their mobile temple in the form of quite a sophisticated camp set, consisting of a tent and paraphernalia.
It was still used after the people of Israel had conquered Canaan, settled there and created their own monarchy. That’s why King David wanted to build a proper temple, as we heard in today’s first reading. Out of his gratitude, he wanted to make God’s temple a place of spectacular glory. Many have followed this pattern over the centuries, driven by guilt or gratitude, or a mix of these. Initially, God’s answer to David’s wish was pretty discouraging. But then an announcement followed; the announcement that God would secure David’s monarchy with his successor. Historically this prophecy referred to Solomon, the king’s son, who built a spectacular temple in Jerusalem and a great personal reputation. Sadly, his last years heralded the approaching decline of the kingdom that eventually fell prey to much more powerful neighbours, and never returned even to the shadow of Solomon’s glory.
The prophecy from today’s first reading was re-read and re-interpreted by the ancient Church as fulfilled in Jesus Christ. He was the chosen offspring of David, sent to secure peace and safety for the people of Israel as announced to the king. But now the fulfilment wasn’t political but spiritual; and the new people of Israel wasn’t restricted to bloodline, but open to anyone who believed, Jews and Gentiles. Jesus built the ultimate Temple for God in his own body, where divinity and humanity met and are perfectly united. This incredibly wonderful development began with Mary’s approval of God’s plan, as we heard in today’s gospel. On Christmas morning we’ll hear those words: ‘The Word was made flesh, he lived among us.’ In the Temple of his Body he would then offer God the perfect sacrifice of himself.
This temple here – though imperfect, sometimes cold and draughty – creates and provides the sacred space where we can connect to God through his Son. When we take Communion – the holy Body and Blood of Christ – we let him take control over our lives, and then he leads us to His and our Father. Like Mary in Nazareth, we face quite a similar decision: to approve God’s offer though it might look crazy. One answer, though, opens the door to eternity and immortality: ‘Lord, let your will be done in me.’