On the first Sunday of Advent each year, around the dinner table my family lights the first candle of our wreath, the candle of Hope. Well, my four daughters first battle for who gets to light the candle – and then we light the candle.
Not only do we await the coming of the Christ the child in the season of Advent, we also await his Second Coming, which is the most basic hope of Christians.
At our offices at Denver Institute, our Wi-Fi password happens to be Isaiah 65:22 (actually [email protected], in case you ever drop by.) The reason is because the message of hope in Isaiah’s vision of a new heaven and new earth includes our work.
The LORD says in this passage, “See, I will create a new heavens and a new earth. The former things will not be remembered, nor will they come to mind. But be glad and rejoice in what I will create, for I will create Jerusalem to be a delight and its people a joy.” You might recognize this language – this is where John got his language of “a new heavens and near earth” in the book of Revelation.
What will this new heavens and earth be like? Isaiah sees a place where the effects of the curse are reversed. He imagines a place of:
- Spiritual transformation. “The sound of weeping and crying will be heard in it now more,” says Isaiah. And “Before they call, I will answer.” God promises a place where pain and sin have been dealt the final blow, and intimacy with God will be the air we breathe.
- Ecological transformation. “The wolf and the lamb will feed together, and the lion will eat straw like the ox, and dust will be the serpent’s food.” As the curse of creation is reversed, predators and prey will live together in harmony, and the earth and its creatures will know lasting peace.
- Biological transformation. “Never again will there be in it an infant who lives but a few days, or an old many who does not live out his years.” The tragedy of dying young will be forever gone, and the blessings of a long, fruitful life will finally be the inheritance of God’s people.
- Social transformation. And here’s a that verse 22 I was referring to: “They will build houses and dwell in them, they will plant vineyards and eat their fruit. No longer will they build houses and others live in them, or plant and others eat. For as the days of a tree, so will be the days of my people; my chosen ones will long enjoy the work of their hands.” In today’s economy, those building our houses can rarely afford to buy a house. And those working in the fields can rarely afford the fresh vegetables we find at the grocery store. But in that day, people will not just enjoy their work, but they will enjoy the fruit of their work. They won’t any longer labor in vain, but each will have enough, and the curse of toil, thorns and thistles in our work will one day be no more.
Why do I share this passage about hope and the new heavens and new earth, especially in Advent? First, let’s remember that this world is coming, and it’s a gift. “But be glad and rejoice in what I will create.” We don’t earn it or work for it. Just like waiting to go to college if you’re in high school, or waiting until Christmas to open presents if you’re a child, waiting is hard. But it’s important we regularly look to this vision of hope and rest in that this is a GIFT. In a sense, we have no work to do – we simply receive.
But second, in another sense, there is work for us to do. Imagine a mirror. You can look at the frame, the craftsmanship, and how it fits in a bathroom. But what you usually look at in the mirror is yourself. It reflects yourself back to you in a way that makes you see yourself, and even your surroundings, differently.
What we see in this vision from Isaiah is like a mirror. When we stare at it long enough, we start to see not just the future differently, but ourselves. And our vision for work, for our communities, for our world starts to reflect the new heavens and the new earth. We begin to study, work, and lives in a way that reflects this new world. Our job is simply to participate with the God who is making all things new, allowing him to bring about tastes of heaven in biology, social work, business, retail, or education.
This is a vision that we have a Denver Institute: not just enjoyment of our work, but of “all things new.” This is a vision I hope my own kids embrace as they consider college, their careers, and ultimately their place in this world.