Today’s reading: Isaiah 65.17-25 + Revelation 21.1-5
This year, I came as close to a new reality as I’ll probably ever come: I had my second child and moved across the country, all in the span of six months. I’m lucky that my new life is pretty excellent — I have a chubby, rosy-cheeked baby who smiles all the time; I live in a place where people are absurdly friendly, the cost of living is reasonable, and my children get to see their grandparents regularly. But I am keenly aware of how difficult it was to get here: I had spent two and a half years slowly regaining the freedom and time to work I lost after having my first child, and having a second one meant sacrificing all of that again. I had to grieve the end of being able to give my older child my undivided time and attention, and that grief was perhaps the defining feature of my pregnancy. I had to leave a home I loved and friends who will never again be a regular part of my life, some of whom I may never see again. My new reality is exciting and full of promise, but the journey here was hard and costly.
We think about the new reality described in Isaiah and Revelation and it sounds awesome. No more oppression? No more crying? Please and thank you. But we often overlook the long, laborious journey leading up to that point. I used to think that this new heaven and new earth would just happen, that God would sweep God’s arm across the land and everything would instantly transform from old to new, not unlike the castle and the talking housewares at the end of Beauty and the Beast. I no longer believe it will happen this way, in part because nothing in these texts supports that idea.
Instead, I am now convinced that this new heaven and new earth will arrive only with our active participation in bringing them into existence.
We see throughout the Bible and in our own lives that God’s redemptive work takes place largely through people. We regular, ordinary people have the honor and the responsibility of getting to participate in God’s work — to partner and co-create with God — and we all have opportunities every day to bring our world closer to or farther from the new earth that these texts describe. In the Revelation passage, the author writes that the one on the throne is making all things new — it is a process and it is happening now, and we get to be a part of it. I can’t wait for everything to be new, for an end to all the injustice that we read about and see with our own eyes every day. But I have to play my part to make that happen, and as I’ve seen in the last few years in particular, that can be exhausting, dispiriting work.
This Advent, I am taking inspiration from the arrival of Jesus — the one who makes all things new, who sets the oppressed free, who proclaims good news to a world that is deeply unjust. I am drawing hope from a redeemer who saw a people and a world worth saving and chose to enter it and suffer alongside us. In this particular Advent, in this spectacularly difficult time in our country and in the world, my hope is that this story gives us fuel and focus to keep toiling to bring about the new heaven and the new earth that God is creating.
How can you bring your corner of the world closer to this new earth? How does the arrival of Jesus inspire you in your effort?
Created by: Liz Lin
About the author: Liz is a co-founder of PAAC and a senior fellow at the Newbigin House of Studies in San Francisco.
Image by: Charlene Choi
About the artist: Charlene is a co-founder of femails.org, a feminist conversation collaborative. She is also the Director of Strategy at KCS, a large social services nonprofit organization working to equalize disparities in health care access, substance use disorder, and mental health.