Dear Glen Mar,
For this pondering, I offer to you a devotion that I wrote a long time ago…it came to mind as I was reading Isaiah 65:17-25 this morning as part of my prayer time.
My first Bible I ever received or read was a children’s Bible, third grade, 1978, given to me by my first pastor. On the back cover was a piece of an art project I had done in Sunday School that had become permanently affixed there (with rubber cement I think.). It was blue and shaped, quite unintentionally, like Yugoslavia. On the front was a picture of a very caucasian Jesus speaking to little children under a big tree and they had lots of animals napping in the meadow nearby. Lots of sheep and a sleeping lion. I remember thinking well, perhaps Jesus has a way of putting animals and people to sleep, like a preacher who talks or prays too long. A very pastoral scene, in every sense of the word. My Bible scene affirmed for me that Jesus loves the little children, and that, by implication, Jesus loved me.
As I got older, I realized something else about this passage. That a fellow who makes it OK for sheep to snooze near lions is more than a nice guy who likes kids, who dispenses kid-friendly unconditional love like Mr. Rogers. Jesus is more than a cute baby in a manger who’s too polite to cry when the “cattle are lowing.” This Jesus has power and Jesus, with his inside-out priorities and his relentless message of grace, love and forgiveness, calls us to follow him in building and proclaiming the kingdom of God.
Isaiah’s picture of a new heaven and a new earth may not look familiar to us. We go to the hospital, the funeral, and we bristle at the burden of reconciliation. We know brokenness and we long for love. All the lambs we know run from all the lions we know. But there’s something stirring in the cold air this time of year, whispering to us about a star in the east and a baby who will grow up to be a man who has a way of healing and forgiving and dying and rising that defies everything we would expect. If we open our hearts to Isaiah’s world, to the world Jesus calls us to build, we might just begin to see it, in the faithful act of reading the Bible, the remarkable act of prayer, the radical act of service. If one is in Christ, he or she is a new creation. And when you get those new creations together, committed to comforting those who mourn and making sure no one goes hungry or homeless, then you just might have the beginning of a new heaven and a new earth. Who knows? It might be shaped like Yugoslavia.
I hope you’ll join me this Sunday, in person or online, as we share in a special service of Lessons and Carols to celebrate this 4th Sunday of Advent. And check out the website for our Christmas Eve service options! (Did you know Christmas Eve is usually one of our biggest services of the year? This year, we would love to have many people join us – please share info with friends on social media so we can “fill God’s house” in a new way this year).
See you “in Church”,
PS The Prayer Service for Asbury UMC has been rescheduled for Friday 12/18 due to Thursday’s weather. It’s at 10 am at Asbury UMC in DC, and will also be streamed on the BWC Facebook Page.