For I am about to create new heavens and a new earth; the former things shall not be remembered or come to mind. But be glad and rejoice forever in what I am creating; for I am about to create Jerusalem as a joy, and its people as a delight.
I know…more visioning. I guess that’s where I am this year. I’m sorry if you were tuning in hoping to feel good about where you are! No really, I don’t think God is disappointed in us; God just wants the best for us. Isn’t that just like God? There is nothing wrong with where we are. I love this earth. I love this country. I love this state and the fact that I’m generations into it. I love this city. I love St. Paul’s. I love my house. I love my life. But in case you think I am nothing more than an annoying cheerleader, I also count on the fact that there is always something more, something just over the horizon. I think that Advent does a good job of reminding us of that horizon, reminding us that what we have and what we hold is really not “it”. No, regardless of where we think we’ve been headed, we have not “arrived”.
This passage for today is not some unrealistic pipe dream. It is not something that slashes our view of the life that we’ve created. It just shows us something more. It is real. It is what God is about to do–maybe not tomorrow, maybe not next week, maybe not even in the next ten centuries. But we are people of faith. We are people of what God, always, is about to do. The question is do we live our lives holding on to what we have or do we live our lives looking for what God is about to do.
There is a Native American tale of a chief who had three sons. He knew that he was nearing the end of his life and had not yet decided which of his sons would succeed him as chief. So, he gathered them together and pointed to a mountain in the distance. “I want you to journey to that mountain, climb to its summit, and bring back the thing you think will be most helpful in leading our people”. After several days, the first son returned with a load of flint stones, used to make arrow tips and spear points. He told his father, “Our people will never live in fear of their enemies. I know where there is a mountain of flint.” The second son climbed to the top of the mountain, and found forests rich with wood for making fires. When he returned, he said to his father, “Our people will never be cold in winter. I know where wood can be found in abundance to keep them warm and to cook their food. The third son returned late and empty-handed. He told his father, “When I got to the summit, I found nothing worth bringing back. I searched and searched, but the top of the mountain was barren rock and useless. Then I looked out towards the horizon, far into the distance. I was astonished to see new land filled with forests and meadows, mountains and valleys, fish and animals—a land of great beauty and perfect peace. I brought nothing back, for the land was still far off and I didn’t have time to travel there. But I would love to go there someday; I delayed coming back because I found it very difficult to return after seeing the beauty of that land.” The old chief’s eyes blazed. He grasped his third son in his arms, proclaiming that he would succeed him as the new chief. He thought to himself, “The other sons brought back worthy things, necessary things. But my third son has a vision. He has seen a better land, the promised land, and he burns with the desire to go there.”
As I said, this is not something that God is dangling out there like some sort of teaser knowing that we will never reach it. God really means for us to glimpse what God is about to do, to move toward it, to love and desire it so much that we can do nothing else but go toward it. I do not know what my future holds. None of us do. But I know that just over the horizon is something so incredible that I burn with desire to go there. It is the place that God means for me to go.
Today is the twelfth day of Advent. (Wait, wasn’t that supposed to be the twelfth day of Christmas?) We are halfway through this waiting, halfway through this season that calls us to put a hold on our plans, to look to the horizon, to strain and squint for a glimpse, just a glimpse of what will be. Today is the twelfth day of the twelfth month. The symbolic meaning of twelve is completeness, whole. That’s right. The vision has not come to fruition, but that doesn’t mean that it is not complete. It is there, just as it should be, just over the horizon. And now…now we will start living into what we see. Because, you see, it is about what God is about to do…
Reflection: What does that place just over the horizon look like to you? What would you give up to take the time to go toward it? What do you see that God is about to do?
Grace and Peace,