Revelations 21:1-8; 22:1-5
Okay, so it’s done. The Christmas season is drawing to a close, and while you might be procrastinating on putting those Christmas decorations away, sooner or later you will have to listen to that responsible side of your brain that says “that Christmas tree isn’t gonna last forever. It’s days are numbered.” In a few short days New Years will be done, the holidays will draw to a close, and we will enter that weird period of winter where we really don’t have anything to look forward to but spring for what seems like a couple of extra-long months. After all the buildup of Christmas, the anticipation, we are often left at this point wondering “Well… where do we go from here?” A valid question to be sure.
After the joy of celebrating Christmas, the coming of Christ, the hope, the joy, it sort of feels like we are thrust back to reality after Christmas. “Oh yeah” we might think to ourselves “the world still lacks a good bit of joy, peace, love, and justice.” But wait a minute! That was what Christmas was all about right?!? Well… yes it was, but Christmas is celebrated because it marks a new beginning, not a new end. If you happened to join us for Christmas Eve service, we celebrated the conclusion of the Advent Season on the night of Christ’s birth, but it was not the advent of peace, joy, love, and justice. At least, it was not the advent of these things to their ultimate fulfillment as depicted in all of those prophecies of Jesus. After all, those prophecies call for joy, peace, love, and justice that are universal, absolute, and perfect. These things are still today neither universal nor absolute, and they certainly aren’t experienced perfectly. Christmas does not represent the complete realization of these things. They are seen now, a little, like a shadow of things to come perhaps. That is why during that service we called Christmas the “advent of hope”.
In a world that still struggles desperately to find peace, love, hope, and justice, it may seem as though Christmas doesn’t mean quite as much as people make it out to mean. This much is true, but Christmas marks the beginning of the work of Christ. A work that continued to the cross, but that was not even the realization of all these things. It continued beyond the cross to the ascension of Christ into heaven, but that was not even the realization of these things. The true and perfect end that begins on Christmas is that moment when Christ returns. While we recognize hope in Christmas, that hope will turn to joy, peace, and justice when Christ comes back to rule as our king. If Christmas day should be marked by a profound look to the past, then the day after Christmas should be a profound look to the future, a future in which we now have hope that the same Jesus who came once fulfilling promises, will come again in the same manner. In this knowledge we should continue to do the work He has given us with urgency. Because the Bible tells us that the “ …day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but the Father only. For as were the days of Noah, so will be the coming of the Son of Man.” (Mt 24:36–37) With each day that passes from the first Christmas to the last, we are another day closer to the realization of the hope of Christ. As Paul writes in Romans 13…
“…you know the time, that the hour has come for you to wake from sleep. For salvation is nearer to us now than when we first believed. The night is far gone; the day is at hand…” -Romans 13:11–12
While we experience the “Mystery” or “First fruits” of Christ and the joy, peace, love, and justice promised at His first advent, at His second we will experience these things to their fullest. I leave you with the new promise of Christ that we look forwards to in Revelations. This is the one that we can still look forward to. The best is yet to come. For this reason we take heart. Or, as Paul more aptly says “The night is far gone; the day is at hand.”
New Heaven and New Earth
21 Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. 2 And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. 3 And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.”
5 And he who was seated on the throne said, “Behold, I lam making all things new.” Also he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.” 6 And he said to me, “It is done! I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end. To the thirsty I will give from the spring of the water of life without payment. 7 The one who conquers will have this heritage, and I will be his God and she will be my son. 8 But as for the cowardly, the faithless, the detestable, as for murderers, the sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars, their portion will be in the lake that burns with fire and sulfur, which is the second death.”
The River of Life
22 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 2 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. 3 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. 4 They will see his face, and his name will be on their foreheads. 5 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. –Revelations 21:1–8; 22:5