December 21, 2020

Presbyterians Today, PC(USA)
Advent Christmas Devotionals 2020
"Let Us Light Candles"
Then one of the seven angels who had the seven bowls full of the seven last plagues came and said to me, “Come, I will show you the bride, the wife of the Lamb.” And in the spirit he carried me away to a great, high mountain and showed me the holy city Jerusalem coming down out of heaven from God. It has the glory of God and a radiance like a very rare jewel, like jasper, clear as crystal. It has a great, high wall with twelve gates, and at the gates twelve angels, and on the gates are inscribed the names of the twelve tribes of the Israelites; on the east three gates, on the north three gates, on the south three gates, and on the west three gates. And the wall of the city has twelve foundations, and on them are the twelve names of the twelve apostles of the Lamb. The angel who talked to me had a measuring rod of gold to measure the city and its gates and walls. The city lies foursquare, its length the same as its width; and he measured the city with his rod, fifteen hundred miles; its length and width and height are equal. He also measured its wall, one hundred forty-four cubits by human measurement, which the angel was using. The wall is built of jasper, while the city is pure gold, clear as glass. The foundations of the wall of the city are adorned with every jewel; the first was jasper, the second sapphire, the third agate, the fourth emerald, the fifth onyx, the sixth carnelian, the seventh chrysolite, the eighth beryl, the ninth topaz, the tenth chrysoprase, the eleventh jacinth, the twelfth amethyst. And the twelve gates are twelve pearls, each of the gates is a single pearl, and the street of the city is pure gold, transparent as glass. 

Revelation 21:9–21
Catchinig a new vision
Years ago, I had the opportunity to travel to the Greek island of Patmos, where John, exiled there by the Romans, received the visions that are recorded in Revelation. I was excited to enter into the dark, dank cave where the apostle resided. I was eager to “feel” something; perhaps to receive my own vision from God.

What I didn’t expect, though, was hundreds of tourists buzzing about, making it hard for me to be in a contemplative mood. In fact, there wasn’t much time to pray and ponder as guides quickly shuffled camera-snapping tourists through the cave. I was given a moment to sit on one of the chairs lining the walls. I tried to sit still, quiet my thoughts and sense God’s presence. Disappointed that I didn’t get a divine tour of my future, I made my way to the exit, only to stop suddenly. Something nudged me to go back and sit some more, and so I did, sitting through three more tour groups. I sat with my eyes closed and expectations low. Then I left.

When my husband, who was by my side throughout this experience, asked later what I thought about our visit to the cave, I was hesitant to share. How could I tell him that I felt a warm sensation in my hands and heard a clear message to write and keep on writing? How could I tell him that I felt this peace in seeing clearly who I am: a writer first, a pastor second? And what would this “vision” mean when it came to my call as a traditional pastor of a parish? I began to speak: “It might sound weird, but I felt …” That’s when my husband finished my sentence: “I felt something too.”

God is always trying to get our attention, always willing to show us a new Jerusalem. This Advent especially, God is showing us a new vision of “doing the holidays” that has been forced upon us by COVID-19. It’s a vision we might not welcome as it means letting go of beloved traditions and not holding large family gatherings. But God is always recreating our lives and always presenting us with a vision of what can be. And that vision, if we see with eyes of faith, is indeed beautiful.

God of new beginnings, in this season of Advent, open my eyes so that I can see a future full of hope and catch a vision for a brighter tomorrow that is overflowing with peace and beauty. In Jesus’ name, I pray. Amen.

Go deeper
Take a virtual tour of John’s cave in Patmos, Greece, via this link:
Alpharetta Presbyterian Church
180 Academy Street, Alpharetta, GA 30009