Monday, December 12, 2011

The Third Monday of Advent

Third Monday of Advent
December 12, 2011

Therefore, thus says the Lord, I have returned to Jerusalem with compassion; my house shall be built in it, says the Lord of hosts, and the measuring line shall be stretched out over Jerusalem. Proclaim further: Thus says the Lord of hosts: My cities shall again overflow with prosperity; the Lord will again comfort Zion and again choose Jerusalem. (Zechariah 1: 16-17)

I will write on you the name of my God, and the name of the city of my God, the new Jerusalem that comes down from my God out of heaven, and my own new name. Let anyone who has an ear listen to what the Spirit is saying to the churches. (Revelation 3:12b-13)

When I think of God bringing all things to closure on planet earth, I imagine the “new heaven and new earth” (Revelation 21:1) that is just like a perfect national park, except better. It will be a paradise and there will be no need for buildings, roads, vending machines, or trash cans. The temperature will be ideal, food will grow on all the trees, and pollution and graffiti will be no more. I can run free without anyone bothering me.

The Bible, however, keeps talking about the image of a city—Jerusalem, to be exact. God speaks through the prophet Zechariah about his affection for the city of David. In Revelation Jerusalem is renewed and recreated as a heavenly gift to the world. The return of Jesus includes the restoration of a site in the Middle East that has been a hotbed of controversy and drama for thousands of years.

Why a city? Cities are where people interact, trade, engage culture, and make their own marks through architecture and engineering. Cities are also dependent on outside resources for fuel, food, and raw materials. Crime finds fertile ground in the city, and the need for governance is always high there.

The city is where intrigue is birthed—the plot to kill Jesus was hatched in Jerusalem, and when he was executed he was banished from the place of human life and crucified outside the city. Yet, God speaks of the city as the heart of his earthly recreation. Perhaps that’s why Jews, Christians, and Muslims can’t stay away from Jerusalem.

It occurs to me that God’s desire for human beings is not that they wander alone through a bountiful wilderness, but that they live together under his rule and reign, dependent upon him for all things. The new Jerusalem will be a city, but it will be one that draws people together for a shared life in the unhindered presence of God.

Our story starts in a garden, but it ends in a city where God says, “See, the home of God is among mortals. He will dwell with them as their God; they will be his peoples, and God himself will be with them; he will wipe every tear from their eyes. Death will be no more; mourning and crying and pain will be no more, for the first things have passed away” (Revelation 21:3-4). Now, that’s a city.

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