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The Mansion of our Heart

Matthew 1:18-25

The Rev. Jon Roberts

22 December


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.

The Mansion of our Heart

Eastern Orthodox icon depicting Christ enthroned in heaven, surrounded by the ranks of angels and saints. At the bottom is Paradise with the Bosom of Abraham (left), and the Good Thief (right).

c.1700 Greece, Anonymous

Every year we celebrate the holy season of Advent. Every year we pray those beautiful prayers of longing and waiting, and sing those lovely songs of hope and promise. [1] Songs, heard, coming from the Mansion of our Heart. [2}

We anticipate a glimpse of the beatific vision, of what heaven must have been like when God came down to Bethlehem. We encountered this reason to rejoice last Sunday, when the Advent story was about us. We rejoiced because we discovered how God anticipates us to love him, as he loves us. Is this what God finds in us today? Does he visit us by His Holy Spirit to find love? And if so, what does he find? Perhaps it is as the Collect this morning suggests; that we are to purify our consciences to prepare ourselves as a mansion for Him to visit.

Have you ever wondered if your heart, that place for Him to dwell in, is prepared like a mansion or a barn? Sometimes we wonder if we are prepared. We wonder if we are like those who God visited in the bible. Wondering, also, if there is a place prepared for us in heaven.

After a long illness, a woman died and arrived at the Gates of Heaven. While she was waiting for Saint Peter to greet her, she peeked through the Gates. She saw a beautiful banquet table. Sitting all around were her parents and all the other people she had loved and who had died before her. They saw her and began calling greetings to her -- "Hello" "How are you! We've been waiting for you!" "Good to see you." When Saint Peter came by, the woman said to him, "This is such a wonderful place! How do I get in?" "You have to spell a word," he told her. "Which word?" the woman asked. "Love." The woman correctly spelled "Love" and Saint Peter welcomed her into Heaven.

About six months later, Saint Peter came to the woman and asked her to watch the Gates of Heaven for him that day. While the woman was guarding the Gates of Heaven, her husband arrived. "I'm surprised to see you," the woman said. "How have you been?" "Oh, I've been doing pretty well since you died," he replied. "I married the beautiful young nurse who took care of you while you were ill. And then I won the lottery. I sold the little house you and I lived in and bought a big mansion. And my wife and I traveled all around the world. We were on vacation and I went water skiing today. I fell, the ski hit my head, and here I am. How do I get in?" “Simple,” the woman told him. "All you have to do is spell a word." "Which word," her husband asked.

Joseph could have abandoned young Mary and gone on to wed another. Dazed and confused, it could have felt like a blow to the head but in his dream, he was foretold not only the name to be given to the child she carried, Jesus, but that this boy would grow to be the savior of the world. The pronouncement by the angel for Jesus, his official title was “Emmanuel” meaning, “God is with us.”[2] When God’s messenger, Gabriel, came down to visit the Blessed Virgin Mary, he did not test her. He did not question the love in her heart, for it was known beforehand. She had already found favor in God’s sight. but she wondered herself. The angel gave her assurances. He told her that she was blessed among women and blessed would be the fruit of her womb.

If you doubt, thinking you haven’t enough love in your heart today, fear not, for Love came down in Bethlehem. Not in the royal bed of a mansion but rather in the noble manger of a barn. He transcends our barns into mansions as we embrace the mystery and seek the beatific vision of that heavenly kingdom where we learn that the word “Love” is far greater than we ever imagined.

Let us pray a beautiful prayer, that we purify our consciences on this day, so that God may visit us; that His Son may join us in that blessed song, coming from the mansion of our hearts.

[1] Karl Rahner, c.1970
[2] The Rev. Jon Roberts
[2] Matthew 1:18-25

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