Scripture reading for today:

Isaiah 2:1-5, Psalm 122, Romans 13:11-14, Matthew 24:36-44

An Invitation to an Unlikely Christmas Feast

Today’s reading in Isaiah is such a clear picture of a world I want to be a part of. Isaiah invites us to imagine a future in which God’s reign is at the centre of our world. A future where God’s judgment, true and just, begins to settle the disputes of many peoples. A future where God’s way of life flows out from the throne room and begins to change everything. In this future, the world’s worn-out and war-torn way of life begins giving way to peace. Before long, swords and spears become so useless and beside the point that we melt them down so we can make gardening implements. We begin to pour our collective energy, focus, and genius back into the earth and each other. Imagine the good things that will begin to grow! Things get so good for so many people that we soon forget that fighting and war ever had a use. Friends, I want to live in that world so badly. 

As a follower of Jesus, where do you imagine God will begin planting the seeds for this new and beautiful world that Isaiah saw? Among world governments? In Corporate Board Rooms? Maybe. But more likely I believe it will begin with us as God’s people. I believe those seeds are already being planted among us. It happens every time God’s people gather together across theological and political fault lines and set aside their worn-out and war-torn arguments. Every time we allow God to be the judge. Every time we open ourselves up to God’s way of living. Every time we work at being a people of peace. Every time we do those things God is planting the seeds of our future. 

This isn’t mere speculation friends. I’ve seen it with my own eyes. In the last several years something weird has started happening at New Leaf gatherings and events. Leaders from the four corners of the Canadian church have begun taking a seat around our proverbial dinner table. Routinely we are surprised by the unlikely combination of dinner guests, the unlikely meals they bring to share, and the unlikely conversations that ensue. It’s not something we set out to do but we do know that it comes from God. At the New Leaf table, we are sharing two things from our respective vantage points in different denominations, networks, and neighbourhoods: many of our churches are either plateaued or shrinking and at the same time God is bringing about new life. Our collective suffering and our collective hope are what draw us together. At times we are like a gathering of Isaiahs as we tell the truth about the very real and very serious decline in the Canadian church. We need each other because we think it’s just us. It isn’t. We need each other because we feel alone. We aren’t. We need each other because we feel like fools for holding onto these hope-filled visions. We aren’t. 

This advent reader you’re about to enjoy is an example of what I’m talking about. The flavours you’re about to sample come from different places: geographically, theologically, politically, and sociologically. To some palettes, these flavours won’t mix well together. I’ll be the first to admit I’m not always ready to share in God’s unlikely feast of suffering and hope. If you’re like me and you aren’t used to dinners like this please take note: our little Advent Reader may not always be a “safe space” for you – a place for you to eat everything you’re used to eating and already know how to make at home. Instead, what we hope to offer you here is a brave space. A brave space is an opportunity to encounter difference. It’s a table set right in the middle of the rubble-strewn and fertile soil of the Canadian church.

Before we begin here’s a little poem that’s been brought to our attention from several different directions in recent weeks. We don’t believe in coincidences so we suspect this might serve as the Spirit’s formal invitation for you to join our unlikely Christmas dinner.

An Invitation to Brave Space

Together we will create brave space
Because there is no such thing as a “safe space” — We exist in the real world
We all carry scars and we have all caused wounds.
In this space
We seek to turn down the volume of the outside world,
We amplify voices that fight to be heard elsewhere,
We call each other to more truth and love
We have the right to start somewhere and continue to grow.
We have the responsibility to examine what we think we know.
We will not be perfect.
This space will not be perfect.
It will not always be what we wish it to be
But It will be our brave space together, and
We will work on it side by side

      • Micky Scott Bey Jones1

Thank you for reading the New Leaf Advent Reader, a collection of reflections from writers across Canada. If you are enjoying the reader, sign up to receive the readings in your inbox each day here: SIGN UP And please share this reflection with your friends and family who might also enjoy it.