by The Rev. Neal McGowan
See the home of God is among mortals.
He will dwell with them;
They will be his peoples,
And God himself will be with them
What is the point of heaven? Is it a place? Maybe a planet in a galaxy far far away? A misty realm filled with baby angels, harps, and mansions designed by Liberace?
When the Scriptures talk about heaven, they mean something far richer and fuller than we often imagine. In the book of Revelation, heaven is portrayed as the spiritual realm where God, the angelic beings, and the saints and martyr’s dwell. St. John the Divine begins his vision in Revelation 4 by being brought up into heaven, lifted into the throne room of God filled with fantastic images of living creatures straight out of a fantasy novel: a lion, ox, human, and an eagle except with six wings and multiple eyes (4:6-8). Throughout the book of Revelation, we catch glimpses of this spiritual realm filled with beings that stagger the imagination, vast multitudes of people and angels, and at the center of it all a Lamb, and the throne of God. St. John’s language struggles to keep up with the wonder of what he sees. Reading Revelation is not a simple walk in the park.
But by the end of Revelation, in chapter 21, we get a vision of a new heaven and a new earth being united. We learn that this place where God dwells unites with where human beings are. God’s home is with mortals. The Lord of heaven dwells with humans made from and for the earth. God’s realm of perfect peace unites with our world by the creative power of God. St. John the Divine’s vision is of course about future things—our hope at the end of all time. But God dwelling with us is also the message we anticipate in Christmas. Heaven touches earth. Immanuel born. God is with us. The Lord of heaven swaddled in a manger. In Christmas, we celebrate heaven descending to earth to transform it from the inside even as we look forward to the day when earth and heaven are fully united in Christ.
The Door, a worship and teaching ministry of St. John the Divine, invites you to spend ten minutes in meditation every Wednesday in Advent focused on how the anticipated coming of Christ is also a look back from his second coming. This weekly livestream will air live on The Door's YouTube channel at noon.