Don’t we mix up the symbol for something with the thing itself?
Do we love the flag, or what it represents? Fabric does nothing for us, but the ideas of freedom and justice, loyalty to the rule of law and unity do mean quite a bit.
The Temple was where God chose, for a time, to be present to his people in a unique way. Theology tells us that He is everywhere already. However, He is more in some places than others – not in terms of space and time, but in his purpose to display his glory and to enrich his people. But the Temple itself, see as stones and timbers, was not really anything. The Lord was willing to have it destroyed – repeatedly. By the time of its destruction, the Glory had departed already. Only the symbol was left.
When in Ezra 3, the old timers lamented the small size of the foundation of the temple to be re-built, they were clinging to a memory. They were also holding on to the symbol, not the thing itself.
So what is the thing itself? It is the Lord.
From the Christian perspective God’s presence is not located in a material temple – Jesus discussed this with the Woman of Samaria in John 4. The only temple that matters in our time is the christian community, where God uniquely dwells. Both with the individual (“your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit” I Cor 6:19) and with the church as a community (I Peter 2:1ff).
Now we would not think of lamenting the smallness of our “church” or boasting of its size and vitality. Would we?