Friday, December 5, 2014

An Advent Prayer: "Jerusalem in my Heart"

Every night when possible I lie down next to my youngest child to cuddle him or her to sleep.  This all grew out of nursing the youngest to sleep and continued beyond weaning to the ritual of lying down together at the end of the day.  It has been a precious time for me with each of my children.  It is a time when I sing old hymns to them that they grow to love; it is a time to pray and chat about whatever surfaces and reconnect after a hectic day when this little one might have gotten sidelined in the whirl of the others' needs.  And very often, I fall asleep first and have to rouse myself and stumble down the stairs to finish off the day.  My other children and my husband will have finished up the dishes and have begun gathering for reading and prayer in the living room. (It is not, however, always as smooth as it sounds.:))

Last night I was lying in bed with three year old Becket, my fiesty red head.  I began to explain to him what Advent was.

"Advent means 'coming.'  We are waiting for someone to come and getting ready for his arrival."

"Do you know where Jesus lives?" I asked.

Becket: "In the sky."

"In heaven, yes, and in our hearts."

Becket: "And in Jerusalem." (someone has been listening during Bible readings with the olders)

"Yes.  So Jesus comes to make his home in our hearts, and we get ready for him, like we do when we clean up our house and get rid of broken things and junk that clutters our home that doesn't give us space to live.  We try to get our hearts ready for Jesus by getting rid of anything that makes it crowded so that Jesus doesn't have space.  We get rid of disobedience and anger and meanness. Do you have anything in your heart that you need to get rid of?"

Becket: "I have meanness.  I am mean to Nathanael sometimes."

"Would you like to pray that Jesus will take away your meanness so that you will have space in your heart for him?"

Becket: "Yes, I would."  At this point, Becket began quite a long whispered prayer which I could not quite make out.  When he was finished, I asked him if he would like to share with me what he had prayed.

Becket: "I prayed that Jesus would take away my meanness and that he would put Jerusalem in my heart."

Jerusalem in my heart.

How I was struck in that moment by the image of Jerusalem in my heart--the holy dwelling of the Lord.  Out of the mouth of babes!   One of the most healing verses in my life has been John 14:23, "If anyone loves me, he will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him."  But I have never pictured the home that Jesus makes with me as Jerusalem.  But truly, the new Jerusalem is meant for my heart now and the full realization in the Second Advent, when we will live with the Lord and the full community of saints.

I had sensed that this Advent would involve reflections on "Home" for me since so much of this year has been caught up with issues of house and home.  But I did not expect the riches of the reflection on the home of Jerusalem and how God ministers it to me now.  Jerusalem has been both the symbol of and the actual dwelling of God.  Jerusalem has become the image for God coming to live with his people.  And as we live in the Advent mystery of the coming of Christ's kingdom to us now and the future fulfillment of Christ's kingdom, we live in the mystery of the Jerusalem within and the Jerusalem to which we journey.

Now, I have no illusions that tomorrow Becket will wake up and not be mean to his brother and fully live out of "Jerusalem in his heart."  In fact, he shared that part of his prayer was for his brother--that God would take away the meanness in HIS heart...of course...none of us can linger long with our own sin before looking around for another who might be less deserving of favor than ourselves. Nevertheless, I do believe that every prayer of surrender, every submissive action that makes way for the Lord, every heartfelt confession, every desire for more of Jesus and less of me, will move each of us closer to the new Jerusalem both now and in the future.

May this Advent prepare our hearts to be the Jerusalem to which Christ comes to fill and renew. May he find our gates wide open to receive him.

And he carried me away in the Spirit to a great, high mountain, and showed me the holy city Jerusalem coming down out of heaven from God, having the glory of God, its radiance like a most rare jewel, like a jasper, clear as crystal. It had a great, high wall, with twelve gates, and at the gates twelve angels, and on the gates the names of the twelve tribes of the sons of Israel were inscribed— on the east three gates, on the north three gates, on the south three gates, and on the west three gates. Revelation 21: 10ff

Prophetic words about Jerusalem: "And they shall be called The Holy People, The Redeemed of the Lord; and you shall be called Sought Out, A City Not Forsaken." Isaiah 62

For reflection on Jerusalem as the dwelling of God and of our future dwelling, meditate on Isaiah 62 and Revelation 21 and 22.