Uncle Pastor Ray Minniecon reflects on the celebration, welcome, Joy and Hope we have in the coming of the Light of the World.
On the nineteenth day of Advent 2022, Gershon Nimbalker explores the glory, honour, and splendour we see as the good God intends comes into vision.
Manifold expressions of Goodness
I saw no temple in the city, for its temple is the Lord God the Almighty and the Lamb. And the city has no need of sun or moon to shine on it, for the glory of God is its light, and its lamp is the Lamb. The nations will walk by its light, and the kings of the earth will bring their glory into it.Its gates will never be shut by day—and there will be no night there. People will bring into it the glory and the honour of the nations. But nothing unclean will enter it, nor anyone who practises abomination or falsehood, but only those who are written in the Lamb’s book of life.
Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, bright as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb through the middle of the street of the city. On either side of the river is the tree of life with its twelve kinds of fruit, producing its fruit each month; and the leaves of the tree are for the healing of the nations.
Revelation 21:22 - 22:2
I grew up in the outer suburbs of Newcastle, the son of freshly arrived immigrant parents. In the white working-class suburb I grew up in there weren’t a lot of other brown people about. Sadly, my primary school experience was marked by a fairly-regular encounter with racism. An unhelpful amount of teasing, a teacher that expected far too little of the one brown kid in their class, and the occasional bout of school yard violence.
The experience taught young Gersh to minimise difference, be ashamed of it when it popped up, and strive to be more like everyone else. I still feel a bit sad thinking about young Gersh and what he went through, but also grateful for the resilience I picked up as a result, and as my eldest child is about to begin his school journey, particularly grateful for how much things have changed.
I’m reminded, though, there’s still a great deal of change to traverse. My friend and colleague, Bianca, a proud Gomeroi woman, was reflecting recently on how often fellow Christians ask her how she can hold both her Aboriginal culture and a Christian faith together.
The assumption being that western Christianity, or at least our platonic conception of it, is the ultimate expression of God’s culture. The one true culture that all others will be subsumed into.
In today’s Advent passage, positioned in the closing chapters of Revelation, we see the culmination of God’s grand story. God’s purposes, as outlined in the opening chapters of Genesis, are finally fulfilled. We have moved from the garden to the garden city. The river of life of the garden, now flows through the city centre, with the tree of life growing from its banks providing healing to the nations.
We see also, and perhaps surprisingly, the rulers and people of the many nations of the world, bringing their honour, splendour and glory into the city. Hinting that here, at the renewal of all things, some significant dimensions of our cultures and our diversity is not just preserved, but is a source of glory, honour, and splendour.
At Jesus' birth, we find this same idea reflected by the encounter with the three wise men. These men are, in fact, foreign astrologers of a pagan religion. They are, nevertheless, honoured and celebrated in story as they come to worship and serve the Jewish born messiah.
The goodness God intends, it turns out, is manifold in its expression. Like light refracted through a prism, an infinite array of colours emerge.
That’s not to say all parts of all cultures are equally good; they’re clearly not (western consumerism could certainly do with a check). But where cultures celebrate and help manifest love, beauty, and grace – we should celebrate them, honour them, and learn from them.
How much do we have to learn from the faith and cultures of our First Nations brothers and sisters, about community, sustainability, and spirituality? How many lessons have we missed and how much damage has our hubris caused?
I now revel in the way my culture(s) shape me, my relationships, and my faith. This Advent, I’ll be delighting in the closeness of my overly extended family, the frequently porous boundaries between private and communal, and most particularly, our excessive joy around sharing a table – undoubtedly arrayed with curry.
Gershon Nimbalker is the National Director of Common Grace and founder of Sojourners Social Change Consultants. He has more than 15 years of experience working in advocacy, policy and research, as well as leading and growing grass roots movements to campaign on issues of social justice. Gershon lives on the lands of Awabakal peoples in Newcastle, NSW with his young family.