When Eden gets boarded up by Adam and Eve’s sin, we begin to wander far away. We try to prop up a tower of our own, made from the stuff of rivalry and conceit. But God baptizes our arrogance in his judgement, setting his servant adrift on an ark.
There, under the rainbow of hope, Noah builds an altar to worship the living God, who smells the pleasing aroma and speaks into our world a promise.
Follow the story to Abraham. He sees God hurl back the fires of men on two wicked cities, fueled by the wages of their sin. Then, with a laugh and a sigh of disbelief, Isaac is born to embody the covenant. But God tests Abraham to make sure his faithfulness is more than skin deep, asking him to sacrifice his son.
There, in the thick darkness of obedience, Abraham builds an altar to worship the living God, who provides a ram in the thicket, defining the mountain as “The Lord Will Provide.”
Enter Egypt. God carries a savior down the Nile in a basket of reeds. Drawn up from the water, Moses wields a message that God cares for a lowly, stranded, slave-beaten people with the scars of 400 years. By blood smeared over doorposts, God signals both grace and wrath in a final sweep that will let his people go.
There, across the Red Sea, after the plagues and parting waters, Moses builds an altar of worship for the living God, singing, “The Lord is my strength and my song; he has become my salvation.”
From Tabernacle to Temple, the Lord’s presence cuts into time as he alone protects his people through judges and kings and foreign rulers. He consecrates for himself a chosen people who bear the burden and blessing of good news: our God is not silent. He is living, and with Elijah we pray...
“Lord, the God of Abraham, Isaac and Israel, let it be known today that you are God in Israel and that I am your servant and have done all these things at your command. Answer me, Lord, answer me, so these people will know that you, Lord, are God, and that you are turning their hearts back again."
As Elijah sees the fire coming from the sky, we see Bethlehem’s star falling down to guide us to the reckless, wild fury of God’s love, held by a woman who holds Eve’s answer. And God lights up the night with angels, who praise him for redeeming humanity made in his image.
There, in the mess of our world, Mary makes herself an altar to worship the living God, Messiah come to die, singing,
“He has performed mighty deeds with his arm; he has scattered those who are proud in their inmost thoughts. He has brought down rulers from their thrones but has lifted up the humble."