Scripture reading for today:
The Upside-Down Kingdom of God
In the hit Netflix show, Stranger Things, there exists a world called the Upside Down. Without offering any spoilers (if you haven’t seen the show, run – don’t walk – and check it out now) – the Upside Down is a dark, mysterious, dangerous place. It seems to be a dark echo of the “real” world. It contains everything found in everyday life, but full of darkness. In the Upside Down there is toxic air, there is ash raining from the sky, there are sticky ligaments lining the almost-living walls, there are people who are mysteriously trapped there (#justiceforbarb). And, terrifyingly, the boundary between the Upside Down and the everyday world seems to be getting thin. It’s becoming easier for the characters to experience the Upside Down, even in the midst of their day-to-day lives.
Stranger Things revolves around this idea that the world as we know it is the good place – begging the question what would happen if there were some sort of strange reversal of our world? What kinds of evils would befall us?
Our God seems to operate in an Upside Down of His own. The Kingdom of God is, perhaps, the ultimate Upside Down. But, graciously, it is this upside-down Kingdom that is the good place, not our world; instead of a dark echo of our world, God’s Kingdom shows our world to be the dark echo. God’s Kingdom is upside-down and full of light.
Isaiah 11:1-9 offers a beautiful picture of our world turned upside-down. A world where children are leaders, where wolves and leopards and lions and bears are not predators but cuddlers, and where cobras and vipers are playmates to toddlers. A world where there is safety, comfort, and joy where there should be injury, fear, and death. A world where power looks like weakness and weakness looks like power.
As I journey through this Advent season, I am struck by and drawn to the tradition of waiting in hope. Advent is about waiting, listening, noticing, lamenting, and looking for God at work in our world in real, radical ways. Yes, it’s about waiting for Christmas; about remembering that day in Bethlehem when the God of the Universe broke into our world when the shoot sprung out of Jesse’s stump and changed all things forever. But more than that, it’s about waiting for our world to be turned upside down. It’s about longing for God to break into our world once and for all, bringing healing and restoration to us and to all things.
But the waiting of Advent is not passive. We don’t wait for God’s kingdom in the same way that we wait for a bus or our turn in line. Instead, God, Himself invites us into an active waiting – a waiting that helps to break down the boundaries between our world and His. A waiting that thins the walls between the real world and the Upside Down.
What if, as we wait, we worked to embody this upside-down kingdom of light in our dark world now? What if we lived in ways that made it easier for those around us to experience this new world order, even as we wait? What would happen if we joined in God’s mission of flipping our world over, of creating a new order where there is strength where there should be weakness, life where there should be death, comfort and safety where there should be fear? What would our churches, our neighbourhoods, our homes, our very selves look like if we joined God in the Upside Down?
In the upside-down Kingdom of Jesus, our world is turned around, perhaps in ways that we cannot fully understand. And yet He invites us into a new way of living this Advent – participating in and embodying His Upside Down.
Will you join Him?
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