Heathdale flower 11th December 2019

The Immanuel Principle

From the Tabernacle to Sainte-Chappelle to the birth of Jesus, God continually reminds us that He has a desire to dwell amongst us.

Heathdale flower

Earlier this year, as I watched the Notre Dame cathedral ablaze on television, I had a flashback to another church I have visited in Paris: Sainte-Chappelle (The Holy Chapel).

Sainte-Chappelle is a royal, medieval, Gothic chapel that is famous for its internal architecture and stained-glass windows. When you stand in the heart of this chapel, the richness of the colours is overwhelmingly beautiful. The three windows of the Eastern section illustrate the New Testament; featuring scenes of The Passion of the Cross, the Infancy of Christ and the Life of John the Evangelist. The windows above the nave are dominated by an Old Testament narrative. If you have had the good fortune to visit Sainte-Chappelle, you would know what I’m talking about. If you haven’t, treat yourself to a look at Sainte Chappelle on Google images.

Created during a time when most people could not read or write, the stained-glass windows were a way of telling the story of God at work in the world. The windows tell the story that God has been intimately involved in humanity from the beginning. When surrounded by these glorious stained-glass windows you can’t help but give thanks to God for His deep and constant desire to be with us.

The Old Testament book of Exodus describes another famous worship structure; the first church, known as The Tabernacle. Exodus records the instructions God gave to Moses on how to build the Tabernacle and, going by the description, it too must have been a sight to behold! The Message translation of the Bible captures it like this:

“GOD spoke to Moses: "Tell the Israelites that they are to set aside offerings for me. Receive the offerings from everyone who is willing to give. I want you to receive from them: gold, silver, bronze; blue, purple, and scarlet material; fine linen; goats' hair; tanned rams' skins; dolphin skins; acacia wood; lamp oil; spices for anointing oils and for fragrant incense; onyx stones and other stones for setting in the Ephod and the Breast piece. Let them construct a Sanctuary for me so that I can live among them.”
Exodus 25:1-5

The first Tabernacle was something far more than a visually stimulating piece of art work. The Tabernacle was a sanctuary; a place where God could dwell amongst His people. It was a statement that God wants to be in our midst. One biblical scholar has called this ‘the Immanuel Principle’ which, when translated, is a promise that ‘God is with us’.

Later in Exodus, Moses “was to build the Tabernacle ‘according to the plan that was shown him’.” It implies that the earthly structure was a symbol of a heavenly reality. Again, this serves to remind us that the King of Heaven came to this earth to be amongst us! We are blessed that God desires to be with us!

As we celebrate this Christmas season, may we not only remember that Jesus our Saviour and Redeemer was born but also take the opportunity to let the Immanuel Principle soak into our hearts, minds and souls. From ancient times, God has desired to dwell amongst His people. Even today, as we celebrate the birth of Jesus, may we grasp the significance that our Lord’s desire to be amongst us is as strong as it has ever been. My prayer is that this Christmas season you may know the Immanuel Principle of God’s presence.

As our school year concludes, I would like to once again take the opportunity to thank the Heathdale community for the support and encouragement you have given us during the year.

Wishing you and your family a very blessed Christmas and I look forward to reconnecting in 2020.