Fourth Monday of Advent: A Welcome Without End
“I can’t believe this,” I said. “I can’t get in there. Five steps, no railing. And this is a funeral home—of all places not to be able to enter.”
A friend’s dad had passed away and I was attempting to pay my respects during calling hours. It was deeply frustrating and disappointing to have no way to get into the building to join with others in this time of sorrow.
Later that same week, I went to meet a friend for coffee. I knew the coffee shop had a ramp. But I had not been there for a while, and as I drove up, I noticed that the railing for the ramp to the handicap entrance was no longer there.
I was able to navigate up the ramp, but when I reached the door, it was locked. And then I noticed a table blocking the entrance.
With help from my friend and some staff at the coffee shop, I did manage to get in. But I did not feel welcome. This was supposed to be a warm, inviting “third place” refuge, and I sat with my friend, fuming at the lack of an inviting experience.
Unfortunately, this has become an all-too-familiar experience for me over the past several years, as I have needed to use a walker or wheelchair to get around. About 20 years ago, I was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis, a neuro-muscular disease that progressively inhibits and then takes away a person’s ability to control muscle movement. The last five years have increased the trajectory of my impairment.
When I find myself in these situations, my first response is to feel sorry for myself.
I get angry, or I cry. Sometimes, I do all three.
I long for the days when I could walk up a few steps without needing to depend on someone to help me, when I didn’t have to think through everything involved with getting to an “accessible” location. That longing often spawns feelings of sadness and hopelessness.
In recent years, this passage in Revelation resonates with me more and more. John’s vision of the new heavens and new earth coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride for her husband, stands in sharp contrast to the brokenness and hurt and sin that besets us in our day-to-day life.
God’s M.O. is to be among His people.
God walked with Adam and Eve in the garden, and He led his people out of slavery and into the Promised Land. The John who describes this vision of a new heavens and a new earth is the same John who talked about how “The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us,” and wrote, “We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth” (John 1:14).
I am confident that this same God walks with me in the midst of my struggles. But they are struggles.
I know this is not the way it’s supposed to be. When Jesus came to earth, he began to usher in a time of new life.
As N.T. Wright writes in his commentary on the Book of Revelation: “What God did in Jesus, coming to an unknowing world and an unwelcoming people, he is doing on a cosmic scale. He is coming to live forever in our midst, a healing, comforting and celebrating presence.”
“Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain...”
What joy these words bring to we who are marginalized or hurt or hopeless—or who cannot get into a building because there is no ramp.
“Behold, I am making everything new.”
—Rosie Wagoner, CCO Benefits Coordinator