Hope, peace, love, & joy. The Advent season is a time for us to hold these things in the tension in which we find ourselves. Christ has come and Christ will come again. Scripture provides vivid pictures of how God’s goodness and life is all around us at every moment. He also promises us a reality yet to be fulfilled. This truth tends to meet us all a bit differently in light of what we have come through and what we anticipate in our future.
As we live in community with our refugee and immigrant neighbors, we see this firsthand. The urgency of waiting. The grasping of hope, striving for peace, longing for love, searching for joy. For each of us, these things feel slightly, or perhaps greatly, different. So how can we wait together in eager expectation?
In the beginning of time, God ordered his creation out of the chaotic waters and placed a garden. Eden, where humanity was born. There was a tree of life in its center that was an assurance of God’s abiding presence. In Genesis 2 we see that “a river went out from Eden to water the garden” [v.10] and from there it flowed out into the surrounding lands, bringing life everywhere it ran. God’s presence was creating and sustaining life. Like a river, his life is powerful, vibrant, and perpetual. In every way that God is moving, death becomes life and lack becomes bounty.
The prophet Ezekiel paints a similar picture when he is given a vision of God’s temple in Ezekiel 47:1-12. He describes a river flowing from the temple where God’s presence dwelt among the people, saying, “on the banks, on both sides of the river, there will grow all kinds of trees for food. Their leaves will not wither, nor their fruit fail, but they will bear fresh fruit every month, because the water for them flows from the sanctuary. Their fruit will be for food, and their leaves for healing.” [v.12] Once again, God is with us, bringing life!
In the book of John, we meet Jesus. And in John 4, Jesus meets a woman by a well. There, he declares to her and to us that “whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty again. The water that I will give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” [v.14]. Throughout his life, Jesus brought healing and restoration everywhere he went. He is our living water, as evidenced by the water that flowed from his side at Calvary when he became our redeemer, fulfilling all the law and prophets.
This thread, woven through the story of God, culminates in a vision of the New Creation:
“Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, bright as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb through the middle of the street of the city; also, on either side of the river, the tree of life with its twelve kinds of fruit, yielding its fruit each month. The leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations. No longer will there be anything accursed, but the throne of God and of the Lamb will be in it, and his servants will worship him. They will see his face, and his name will be on their foreheads. And night will be no more. They will need no light of lamp or sun, for the Lord God will be their light, and they will reign forever and ever.“
-Revelation 22:1-5 [Emphasis added]
Takeaways this Advent season…
This Advent, we are turning our hearts once again toward the great hope that has come into the world. As Revelation 22 tells us, we will once again see God’s presence bring life to us like a rushing river. This is the source of hope, peace, love, joy, and life that powers our love for our neighbors and our desire to see us all transformed together. Though our weariness comes in different forms, our restoration comes in one form—the Savior, who is Christ the Lord. So we, along with every tribe and tongue and nation, can celebrate the coming of our King, the river of eternal life, the vine whose leaves provide our healing.
Writer: Carter Brinkley
Volunteer Coordinator at World Relief Memphis
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