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Advent Devotional for Wednesday, December 16
• Revelation 4:1-11
We live our lives in the day-to-day. There are dishes to wash and laundry to fold, dogs to feed and children to get to school; there are phone calls to make and quotas to meet and ornery colleagues to contend with. We are advised by the work ethic of our day to keep our heads down, our eyes straight ahead, and our noses to the grindstone. That, we tell ourselves, is reality.
In the context of that reality, this text from John’s apocalypse explodes like a bomb. Amid a grey flannel world, John shows us the throne room of God, lit with an emerald aura, and seated there is One who glows with the green of polished jasper and blood red carnelian. Amongst the strangers on the bus, John gives us the twenty-four white-robed elders, one for each tribe of Israel and each disciple of Jesus, all casting their crowns into the glassy sea at the foot of the throne, in tribute to the One King seated there. Above the row of grackles perched on a power line and silhouetted against the morning sun swarm the angelic creatures, who chorus “day and night without ceasing” the sacred Trisagion: “Holy, holy, holy …”
There is a story about these creatures. Born of the sacred fires burning beneath the divine throne, the angelic creatures—elsewhere called seraphim, “the burning ones”—are no sooner alive than they are overcome with the wonder of God’s presence. Even as they cry out “Holy!” they are consumed by the sacred flames that gave them birth, returning beneath the throne to issue forth in holy conflagration yet again. So it is that the God of the universe is forever surrounded by a holocaust of holiness.
Part of the meaning of Advent is that it invites us to see another reality, one beneath and behind our quotidian existence. Advent opens our eyes to a universe of wonder around and beyond us, and bears witness that over it all reigns a Creator whose presence is so rarefied that even the angels detonate as they enter it. That is the God whose kingdom we anticipate this time of year. That is the God born to a peasant girl in the back of a barn on a mid-winter Palestinian night. That’s reality.
Holy, holy, holy, the Lord God Almighty, who was and is and is to come. Amen
Associate Dean for Ministerial Formation and Advanced Studies
For the glory of God and to proclaim the gospel of Jesus Christ, Austin Presbyterian Theological Seminary is a seminary in the Presbyterian-Reformed tradition whose mission is to educate and equip individuals for the ordained Christian ministry and other forms of Christian service and leadership; to employ its resources in the service of the church; to promote and engage in critical theological thought and research; and to be a winsome and exemplary community of God's people.
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