“He hath Opened Heaven’s Door and Man is Blessed Forevermore”
In some ways, the story of the Bible could be summed up as the story of Heaven and Earth. While Tom and Jerry Cartoons have depicted Heaven as gold-streeted clouds where good people go to play harps, the Bible’s definition is much simpler. Heaven, or, the Heavens, is God’s space, and the earth is our human space. In the beginning of the Bible we are told that God’s space and our space were once one in the Garden of Eden. God dwelled with man. Sadly, when sin entered the world, God’s space and our space were separated, and we could not live together. The prophets did not give up hope though. God told them that the day was coming when he would reunite Heaven and Earth in a new creation, and there, God and man would live together in perfect peace.
Against that backdrop, the moment of the nativity story when the angels appear to the shepherds may be one of the most wonderful, unbelievable events in the whole story. The scene opens with our very down-to-earth shepherds being startled by the appearance of an angelic being, and as the story crescendos, the glory of God shines around them, and the whole host of heaven (the inhabitants of God’s space) appears before them.
In that moment, the lines between Heaven and Earth, God’s space and our space, are blurred. And that night the shepherds (and you, the reader) received a glimpse not just of the coming of Jesus into the world, but of the new reunited world that he intends to bring to full realization in his return and new creation. Jesus is going to show us what it looks like when he rules the world and lives among us again. Jesus’s birth points to what our future looks like. When Heaven and Earth are one, low shepherds will be welcomed in as honored guests, outsiders will come and be loved by God, and we will experience the love and peace that Christ’s rule ultimately brings to a restored world. (Now that sounds a whole lot better than harps and clouds, don’t you think?)
-Read Revelation 21:1-5, 10, 22-27; 22:1-5. These passages describe the New Earth. What sounds most amazing or wonderful about it? How do you see glimpses/parallels of it in the nativity story we have been reading this advent season?