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Melinda Dwight remembers her trip to Israel with leaders from many denominations, and invites us to lower our walls and set longer tables to share with many.

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Melinda Dwight is the CEO of Alpha Australia.

Today's reading is Isaiah 4:2-6

Earlier this year I had the privilege of taking a trip to Israel with 30 fellow Australians, including a number of Anglican, Baptist, Churches of Christ and Pentecostal leaders, plus a Bishop as a co-host!

We visited many of the holy and historical sites, including the Jordan River where Jesus was baptised by his cousin John. In an impromptu moment, I asked if anyone would be interested in being baptised there, thinking that between myself and my Bishop friend we’d have everything covered. At first, people weren’t too sure if I was serious. But then someone bravely stepped forward and offered to be first. What was particularly special for each of the people baptised that day was they were immersed in the waters of the Jordan by an Anglican Bishop, a Pentecostal Pastor and a Church of Christ Minister. An unexpectedly beautiful moment, reflecting the diversity of Christ’s body while assisting our friends in the cleansing and renewing act of baptism.

Then a handful of Chinese tourists arrived and asked to be baptised as well, making the moment even more memorable!

That day reminds me of Isaiah 4:2-6 which describes the ‘Branch of the Lord’ – his people - as beautiful and glorious. When the Church comes together, putting down our differences and taking up our calling – of spreading the love and truth of Jesus in shared experiences like baptism (whatever our traditional preferences) - we are both beautiful and glorious. But increasingly, our best attempts to witness are becoming all too familiar and expected. We need to provide more moments of unexpected beauty, like an ecumenical leading into the waters of baptism, to refocus us on what really matters as followers of Jesus, and so the world can see us as united as well as diverse.

Our world seems very divided on many fronts so as we walk through the weeks leading up to Christmas, and reflect on the meaning of this season and Christ’s birth, let’s consider how even in his earliest of moments, Jesus brought together shepherds as well as wise men. Who will we bring together this Christmas? As the common phrase suggests, let’s not build higher walls but instead let’s make longer tables.

Daily Reading Isaiah 4:2-6

The Future Glory of the Survivors in Zion

On that day the branch of the Lord shall be beautiful and glorious, and the fruit of the land shall be the pride and glory of the survivors of Israel. Whoever is left in Zion and remains in Jerusalem will be called holy, everyone who has been recorded for life in Jerusalem, once the Lord has washed away the filth of the daughters of Zion and cleansed the bloodstains of Jerusalem from its midst by a spirit of judgment and by a spirit of burning. Then the Lord will create over the whole site of Mount Zion and over its places of assembly a cloud by day and smoke and the shining of a flaming fire by night. Indeed over all the glory there will be a canopy. It will serve as a pavilion, a shade by day from the heat, and a refuge and a shelter from the storm and rain.

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Unexpected Beauty: An Advent series from Common Grace