Purify a Mansion within us
The Rev. Jon Roberts
Calvary Episcopal Church
Indian Rocks Beach, FL
18 Now the birth of Jesus Christ took place in this way. When his mother Mary had been betrothed to Joseph, before they came together she was found to be with child of the Holy Spirit; 19 and her husband Joseph, being a just man and unwilling to put her to shame, resolved to divorce her quietly. 20 But as he considered this, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, “Joseph, son of David, do not fear to take Mary your wife, for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit; 21 she will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.” 22 All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet: 23 “Behold, a virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and his name shall be called Emman′u-el” (which means, God with us). 24 When Joseph woke from sleep, he did as the angel of the Lord commanded him; he took his wife, 25 but knew her not until she had borne a son; and he called his name Jesus.
Isaiah’s prophecy to King Ahaz, an Italian Book of Hours, 1546
Purify our consciences O Lord and prepare a mansion within us.
(Pointing to the creche/manger) How do you like this mansion? This is it. We are getting it ready. You can see how elaborate and beautiful it is. Everyone is going to want to live in this. All we need is a bed, some drapes, a door, maybe.
In the collect for today’s service we are asking a lot of the Savior so that we can have a mansion prepared within us. We are asking for our consciences to be purified. Reading scripture it is hard to get out of our head the vesicles and responses adapted and sung in Evensong. You hear, “Show us your mercy O Lord; And grant us your salvation. Endue thy ministers with righteousness; Let thy people sing with joy.” We have this sense of preparation in this journey of Advent so that we will have a mansion prepared.
You know, building is hard work. You have to envision it. You have to find the resources to afford it. You have to get the plans and permits. You have to gather all the skilled people. This great construction takes a lot of work, it can be a big headache, wondering if you will ever see the end results; but when you do see the finished project, there is joy. That’s Christmas. We will look around saying it took a lot of work, but God’s hands were always on the plans and it was worth it. It is an effort to purify the conscious and prepare the beautiful mansion.
This relates to a story from the Old Testament during a time when the effort of the people had lost its purpose and the mansion was no longer purified. It was in the days of Isaiah, the prophet who gave instruction during the reign of King Ahaz. The relationship of prophet and king centered around the mansion found in Jerusalem. The historical practice of the people of Israel was monotheistic, purifying their hearts only for Yahweh, and they did so in the Temple that David and his son Solomon had built. But the times had changed and the city began to lose its luster. The trumpets still blew. The doors still opened and shut, but it was not the same. The people moved away from this belief and they would lose their sight on the way of salvation.
In Isaiah’s days, King Ahaz was married and wanted to have a successor but he and his wife were unable to conceive. This troubled him. Instead of reaching out in prayer to God, he turned to an unholy alliance with outsiders. The Assyrians were to the north and were imposing more power and influence on Jerusalem, which sat perfectly on the main trade route. Before long the people of Israel were paying taxes to this aggression. It is a slippery slope evidence of giving in a little, to lose a lot. The gods of the sun, moon and animals was imported and before long, the people of Israel lost its way. The nation as a whole lost its purpose. It lost its purity. Maybe in some way this is related to the barrenness of King Ahaz not able to bear a child. Isaiah entered and said, if we want to regain our purpose and get back on track, we need to proclaim that God is the one God of all. Ahaz was not in agreement, and Isaiah replied, “from a virgin a child will be born, and his name will be Immanuel (God is with us).” During the season preparing for Christmas we earnestly and whole heartedly believe that Jesus the Christ is Emmanuel, the one who brings God to us. There is a lot of time between Isaiah and Ahaz and our present day and we wonder if we are running the same course and whether we can ever see a reversal, an ability to purify a corrupted world. Is it possible that God can reverse the course of our rejecting him, such as what Ahaz did?
The story continues. Lo and behold, something miraculous occurred. Finally, a son was finally conceived by Ahaz and he was named Hezekiah. He was the 14th king of Judah. He served as Co-Regent for ten years under his father. When his father died he took power. Do you know what his first official action was? He swept everything clean. He said that everyone in Jerusalem was going to return to worship only Yahweh. It would be a means of purifying the people. This would also have consequences with the Assyrians. He knew they would come in and remove him from office because they had power and influence over the people when they controlled their religious practice. Hezekiah planned for this. He started the “Aquaduct Project.” Over ten years that was a mile long that traveled underground to the pool of Siloam outside the walls of Jerusalem. Historians say that the Assyrian army was totaled about a quarter of a million troops. They surrounded the walls of Jerusalem. They intended to starve them out and dry them out. No food and no water would come. There would be no chance of salvation. Over 4-6 weeks no one was coming out. No one was dying. How was this possible. God provided a way. He gave them something to drink from underneath the walls. A plague moved into the valley and infected the Assyrians, to the point where half of them died.
God works in miraculous ways. He prepares a way. We must, however remain loyal to what got us to where we are today. We must proclaim that God is the only God. “Give us your mercy O Lord, and endue thy ministers with righteousness.” This is the way to prepare the mansion.
Be that place of grandeur where Jesus lives within you. Be that place of warmth and vitality. Set to the task of preparation. What can you do between now and that moment of birth? How do you like this mansion, this basic place where there is a tunnel that comes up through the manger and gives us food and water to drink? Perhaps we all need to start with only one thing and that is to ask God, “To purify our Conscious; “Purify a Mansion within us.”
 Isaiah 7:10-16; Matthew 1:18-25
 The Rev. Jon Roberts, adapted from collect of Advent IV.