In biblical times, cities are surrounded by walls that serve to protect citizens from a multitude of threats: marauding armies, bands of outlaws, and wild animals. The gates are left open during the day to facilitate trade and commerce but are shut tight at night to keep out danger. In our passage today, we read about a heavenly city, the new Jerusalem, where God resides and the gates “will never be shut by day—and there will be no night there.” God-worshiping people from all the nations will fill the city and nothing evil will enter it. In a world full of terrorism, wars, cruelty, and greed, we long for this holy city without night and without evil.
Those who enter this city—to which God invites all—will find no divisions. Nothing is accursed; a river bears life-giving water to persons and to trees that bring fruit and healing; no darkness separates the light. And there is no separation between God and the people: God and the Lamb dwell not in a temple but amongst the nations within the city.
We long to share God’s abundance and light with people from all the nations and join together in praising God and sharing God’s abundant blessings. We long to find our home in God’s presence. Faith in this heavenly vision keeps us focused on how we should live each day. Instead of walling ourselves off from potential dangers or from those persons who are different from us, John’s vision of God’s new heaven and new Jerusalem invites all of the good from all nations into God’s light. Peace comes not from lack of difference but from lack of separation. As we seek to live together despite our differences, God will dwell among us.
God, our dwelling place, keep the vision of your heavenly city burning brightly in our hearts so that we may be motivated to seek your peace with God-loving people from all nations. Amen.
The kingdom of God is constantly advancing by the power of the Holy Spirit. In Acts, Paul is driven forward in his missionary activity by the Spirit. He moves westward to Macedonia, where a woman named Lydia becomes the first known convert in Europe. This becomes a base for subsequent mission. In Revelation, the Spirit shows John the new Jerusalem, in which the Lamb will provide light for all nations. Jesus’ disciples wrestle with the idea that he would leave them. He teaches them that he will not leave them alone; he will send the Holy Spirit to empower them. The psalmist does not mention the Spirit but declares that all nations, not just the Israelites, will sing for joy because of God’s saving power.
Read Acts 16:9-15. Recall a specific time when you have followed God. How did you discern God’s voice? What did you do to follow through on God’s call?
Read Psalm 67. How do you share God’s blessings with the world?
Read Revelation 21:10, 22–22:5. What would it mean for there to be no separation between nations? no separation between you and God?
Read John 14:23-29. When have you experienced the Holy Spirit as your Advocate?
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This season, Whitney R. Simpson has given us the gift we must open: a clear, accessible invitation to connect with the divine spark that is within us. This is the best present: being present for Jesus’ birth, God made human.”
Learn more about our newest Advent resource, Fully Human, Fully Divine here.