Fourth Sunday of Advent: Moving Heaven and Earth
And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “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, for the old order of things has passed away.”
He who was seated on the throne said, “I am making everything new!” Then he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.”
—Revelation 21:3-5 (Read Revelation 21)
He walks into my office, sits down in a slouch, and stares at his shoes. I stare at the floor between us. It is hard to know which one of us feels more like a failure.
Danny* is a student at the small K-8 school where I am educational director. For months, he has not been able to hold extremely distracting and sometimes aggressive behaviors in check long enough to make it through the day in his classroom. For months, I have not been able to figure out how to help him.
In spite of the valiant efforts of counselors, a psychologist, and a prescribing physician, today I am forced to come to the conclusion that Danny and this school are not a fit. I’m sad and angry and overwhelmed. Why can’t I fix this and so many other situations like it? Why can’t we, as a school, make it possible for Danny to flourish or even just survive here?
I continue to stare at the floor.
I’m trying to formulate these thoughts into sentences Danny will understand—sentences that will feel more compassionate than angry, because my anger is not directed at him.
Though Danny is now in a stable home environment, he had a rough start in life. Danny’s mother did drugs during her pregnancy and then left him at birth in the care of relatives and community services. Relatives sexually abused him and the community services couldn’t find a case manager for him. Even though he is loved and cared for now in his adoptive home, Danny’s brain is damaged and his soul is scarred.
I can’t say any of this to him. I can’t betray how overwhelmed I feel at his situation. I don’t want to confuse or frighten him.
As I search for words—for hope—I know that I can’t think of Danny only as an individual in a school. It’s tempting to pray, “Just let us fix this one,” but Danny is part of a family, a neighborhood, a city, state, and country—and maybe a church. All these structures are as broken as he and I are as we sit here together.
Danny’s and my only hope rests with a Great King who can use us to redirect and heal broken systems and structures, as well as broken individuals.
In Revelation 21, we are given a vision of the New Heavens and New Earth. This next advent is promised to be so naturally and culturally new according to God’s ordinances, that like our resurrected bodies, it’s almost unimaginable.
Our Great King came to reset the universe and redirect our role in it. He comes and will come again not only to fix us and our individual situations, but also to fix the broken web of structures that we are part of.
The angels weren’t shouting about an adorable baby.
They were—and are—celebrating the coming of the Great King who will change misdirected government, misguided business, systems that promote drug abuse, generations of family poverty, chaotic and stuck schools and school systems, institutionalized racism, and health systems that primarily try to fix illness rather than promote health.
As we wait for this second coming, how can we walk in His ways?
I realize now that filling positions of power with a lot of individual Christians isn’t enough to make the changes that Danny needs. Those Christian politicians and Christian business owners and Christian teachers and physicians and lawyers and police officers and pastors and parents need more than a biblical set of morals.
They need to have a biblical vision for the New Heavens and New Earth and a Holy-Spirit-filled will to be agents in God’s Kingdom, here and now.
Seeking this vision is communally working out our salvation in fear and trembling. It is going to Scripture together and developing a base of wisdom together within our different callings and between the various callings we have within the body of Christ.
I need this too.
As Danny continues to slouch before me, silently willing our meeting to be over, I say this:
“Danny, this school can’t meet your needs. This is not your fault. It’s just that right now, we are not the best place for you.”
As I say these things out loud, in my heart I reach for the hope of the New Heavens and New Earth, and silently but fervently I pray, “Come, Lord Jesus. Come.”
*“Danny” represents a composite of many students.
Christy Wauzzinski serves as Education Director at Pittsburgh Urban Christian School. She worked for the CCO in the 1970s and ’80s, as campus ministry staff and as Director of Training.