The Healing of the Nations

Christ is bigger than Christianity.

The one whose birth we celebrate at Christmas is the one who makes all things new. He is Lord of heaven and earth, not just the Lord of Christians and the church, and in the end he will redeem all of creation. It’s fitting, then, that the very last chapter of the Bible should turn up in Advent, since the Alpha is also the Omega. The beginning and the ending, and everything in between, find their existence, their meaning, and their fulfillment in Christ.

The prologue to John’s gospel says, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God…. All things came into being through him.” Lest we imagine that John alone had that understanding of Jesus, Paul tells the Colossians that “in him all things in heaven and on earth were created,” and “in him all things hold together…. For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, and through him God was pleased to reconcile to himself all things….” And the Letter to the Hebrews begins by saying that God has made his Son the “heir of all things, through whom he also created the worlds. He is the reflection of God’s glory and the exact imprint of God’s very being, and he sustains all things by his powerful word.”

So Christ is not just for Christians. What God does in and through Jesus is ultimately for everyone. That’s one reason why the vision of the New Jerusalem in Revelation includes no temple. No temple, no church, no synagogue, no mosque. Why? Because “the Lord God will be their light.” When everyone sees that God is all in all, the whole city will be one grand place of worship.

Revelation also says that people will bring into that city the glory and honor of the nations. “Nations” here means “peoples,” not states—which is to say that every race and ethnic group will bring its best to the New Jerusalem, not to wage war but as a gift for the common good. In the middle of the street of that city (not on the outskirts) will flow the river of the water of life, where on either side of the river will be found the tree of life. “And the leaves of the tree are for the healing of the nations.”

That city, the New Jerusalem, is our hometown, even if we were born in exile. We were made to live there, and until we arrive safely in it, we are to live as though people all around us are making their way home from every conceivable direction. Knowing that should help to shape the journey, and give us things to talk about along the way.

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