Chelsea Van Der Poel explores how regardless the season, God's goodness creates a hopeful new day.
On the ninth day of Advent, 2021, Pastor Deborah van Bennekom celebrates the Living Water of the Spirit that springs up in each of us and in community.
In the flow
He said to me, ‘Mortal, have you seen this?’
Then he led me back along the bank of the river. As I came back, I saw on the bank of the river a great many trees on one side and on the other . He said to me, ‘This water flows towards the eastern region and goes down into the Arabah; and when it enters the sea, the sea of stagnant waters, the water will become fresh. Wherever the river goes, every living creature that swarms will live, and there will be very many fish, once these waters reach there. It will become fresh; and everything will live where the river goes.
Ezekiel 47:6-9 NRSV
Christmas finds us in shopping centres more than at other times. One Advent season, my eyes were drawn to a young Muslim mother, dressed in black, hijab covering her lower face with a baby and toddler in a pram. Three older children’s hands held the pram, knitting the little family together as one unit. Remembering my own shopping experiences with five children (now grown), I identified with this mother, and how hard she had worked to be in those shops.
Appearing alienated and disconnected from the shoppers around her, I sensed God nudge me to talk with her. Previously, I had never approached an overtly Muslim woman before; affected by the negative media images and stories of hostility. Awkward and reticent, I kept shopping, telling God that I’d follow His prompting, if He circled this lady back into my orbit. At the checkout, this quiet family unit drew close to me again.
I smiled a tentative, “Hello”, complimenting her on five beautiful children, and how well behaved they were. I shared about my five, commending her on the feat that is shopping with five young children. Responding shyly, she thanked me. I don’t know the impact of this exchange on her, but my heart was refreshed and overflowed with new joy. New life flowed in me that Christmas.
That was 10 years ago. Since then, I have spoken at the ARISE conference in Turkey for Central Asian Women; from Muslim nations. Our Church family welcomed Iranian refugees, and provided support to settle in their new community, learn English, and meet Jesus. In preparation for that to happen, the Living Water of the Spirit had to cleanse and renew my heart.
Ezekiel prophesied of the River of God bringing new life and hope - life flourishing where the water flows. (Ezekiel 47:8b-9)
What a picture of life and hope we have, in Ezekiel’s vision. Water that flowed from Jerusalem’s temple, the only ancient eastern city not on a river; turning into a river of life that transformed the Dead Sea into a thriving oasis.
I’m reminded of John 7:37-39:
“‘Anyone who is thirsty may come to me! Anyone who believes in me may come and drink! For the scriptures declare, ‘Rivers of living water flow from his heart.’” (When he said, “Living Water”, he was speaking of the Spirit, who would be given to everyone believing in him.’”
Imagine this, it’s the last day of the Great Feast, jugs of water are emptied over the Jerusalem Temple steps, foreshadowing the River of Life flowing from the most Holy Place. When Jesus declares that He is the Living Water that revives and renews what was once dead.
Isaiah prophesied God creating and sustaining an ever-increasing inclusive community, as it says in Isaiah 41:18&20a:
‘I will open rivers on the bare heights and fountains in the midst of valleys so ALL may see and know, ALL may consider and understand, that the hand of the Lord has done this.’
As we celebrate Jesus coming this Christmas, we remember the water that broke at Jesus birth - God’s Spirit poured out on ALL who believe and the Living Water that now springs up in us, overflowing to refresh, and revive those around us.
Deborah van Bennekom is happily married and a mother of five adult children. Deborah is a pastor and has pastored a Church for 16 years and is the Service Pastor at Springfield Christian Family on Yuggera, Jagera, and Ugarapul Country in Queensland. Currently, Deborah serves on the QLD & NT State Executive for Australian Christian Churches. Deborah is also a Regional Leader for 33 Churches and has been for the last 8 years. She is passionate about Jesus, and Jesus' mission to go into all the world with Good News and is a visionary and strategic leader, passionate about developing and mobilising healthy and whole leaders locally and globally.
What does drinking deeply of Jesus living water look like this Christmas for me?
Are there “dead” areas in my life Jesus wants to revive?
How can I be that fountain of life, bringing life, and hope to those who thirst?
Who will I include this Christmas?
Photograph: Chelsea Van Der Poel, Sunrise, Port Douglas, Yirrganydji Country, Queensland
Visual Description: The sun is rising over rocks and trees on the other side of the water.