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Editor’s note: Throughout Advent, bloggers for The Mennonite will write reflections on the upcoming Sunday’s Lectionary text. These reflections are archived at themennonite.org/advent. Sign up for our TMail newsletter and follow us on Facebook to receive the reflections.
Sun., Dec. 1 Lectionary readings: Isaiah 2:1-5, Psalm 122, Romans 13:11-14, Matthew 24:36-44
How does the story end?
As you read the Bible, what is the earliest vision of the end point for all peoples on Earth?
Is it a great war? Armageddon? A summons to a great summit with God?
Will it all end in horror? Or in divine hospitality?
The oldest documents in the Hebrew Scriptures tell us biblical history is not a perpetual cycle, not a great arc, but an omega point. The vision leads to a focal point of time when, “The mountain of the Lord’s house shall be established on the highest of the mountains, raised above the hills, and people stream to it, many nations throng the ascent” (Isaiah 2:2).
The prophets are looking for a city to emerge from the clouds, a city on the highest mountain, a city of great light, a God-is-come-to-us city that draws all people in curiosity and longing. They throng to it, stream into it from all the earth. They are drawn moth to candle, eyes to the cosmic Fresnel lens, heart to the soul’s polar star.
Crowds of seekers from all nations press in ascent, shouting a common chant:
“Come let us go up,
go up to the mountain of the Lord,
go up to be taught God’s ways,
go up to walk in God’s paths.” —Isaiah 2:3, Micah 4:2
Micah saw it. Isaiah announced it.
(Biblical scholars note that this text is from the third-oldest documents in the Hebrew Scriptures. The order, by their best reckoning, is Amos 760 B.C.; then Hosea 750-725 B.B.; Micah and Isaiah I 742-701 B.C.; and so on).
This holy city metaphor, “The Mountain of the Lord’s House,” is repeatedly quoted in the Advent story. Zachariah alludes to it in his prophesy, “To give light to those who sit in darkness, to guide our feet in the way of peace” (Luke 1:79). Simeon quotes the metaphor, “A light for revelation to the nations” (Luke 2:32). John the Baptist quotes from Isaiah, “All humankind shall see the salvation of our God” (Luke 3:6).
Jesus knew this text. It is one of the great passages that lies behind his declaration “I am the light of the world” (John 8:12). And, revolutionary that He was, he turned the metaphor of Isaiah 2 around: His company of disciples will become, like their Lord, “The light of the world—a city set on a mountaintop which cannot be hidden” (Matthew 5:14).
This primal metaphor stays with us to the very end of Scripture. John the Revelator mapped the city of light, its gates and streets, river and orchards. The city is a certainty, end of story.
So, returning to our text in Micah and Isaiah, we find much more. As the great host gathers to stream up the mountain, pour through the gates, meet the Light at the Center, God appears, and then…
Then, the Go-Between-God
steps down from the mountain
to stand between the gathering nations as the voice of justice.
Then, the In-Between-God
mediates the meeting of many peoples
as they come together for the ultimate summit.
Then, the God of in-between-nesses
lets the impossible become possible:
the nations give up their private Gods of offense and defense,
of conquest and empire, of power and glory; step back to make space.
Then the God of new creation, re-creation
revokes our laws of violence, reverses our need for revenge.
Weapons, now obsolete, find new uses.
Swords become mattocks, bayonets hoes.
Spears become blades for pruning.
Boundaries fade, the wall will fall.
Humankind learns human-kindness.
The prophets call to us: Look up, see the light upon the mountain. Climb up, God comes to meet you above the tree line. Abandon the old battle lines; learn justice; love mercy; sing as you climb; discard weapons; drop all defenses as you kneel.
Advent repeats the call: Come, meet the peace-creating, wall-smashing, border-erasing, reconciling One who will have the last word on this universe.
David Augsburger is a former professor at Fuller Theological Seminary, Pasadena, California, and attends Peace Mennonite Church in Claremont, California.
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