- Brad Nelson
This reflection is taken from our Advent/Christmas Prayerbook. Download your free copy here.
In 2005, a surprising symbol of peace sat at the entrance to the British National Museum in London. It was called “The Tree of Life,” a reference to the tree that sat at the center of the Garden of Eden. The sculpture, meticulously welded together by Christian artists, came from the war torn country of Mozambique. Years of conflict had resulted in a build up of dangerous weapons caches throughout the country. Isaiah’s vision of instruments of death being forged into instruments of life led to an offer of amnesty: Guns in exchange for gardening tools. It was from the disassembled grenade launchers, pistols and machine guns that the artists re-imagined the Tree of Life.
Advent is something like that: A strange mixture of life and death, the longing for peace and the simultaneous and suffocating experience of its absence. Peace seems a long way off. The light we hope to someday walk in is so choked out by the darkness of the nightly news it’s tempting to succumb to the cynicism that the world is getting progressively worse. Such are the last days.
But no, not quite. The prophet does not share in the usual cynicism about last days. Instead, he envisions last days in which the LORD’s temple are established and people make deliberate choices to stream there and walk in the light of the LORD. They make conscious decisions to take the very things that were meant for death and re-imagine them as instruments for life. In that sense, Advent is incredibly participatory. Only God can bring the arrival for which we all await, the peace that will finally heal the fractured gap between our longing and ache, but we, with our choices, participate in making space for it to have its way in our midst.
Brad is currently the pastor of formation at Church of Hope in Ocala, Florida and served on the pastoral staff at Mars Hill Bible Church, Grandville, Michigan for 8 years. A speaker, writer, and student at Western Theological Seminary (MDiv), he and his wife Trisha are the proud parents of two beautiful daughters, Braylen and Clara.
Contact Brad at email@example.com.