|Me in Jerusalem, 2015. Photo: Guy Davis|
Observation: After prophesying that God will cleanse the city of Jerusalem from idolatry, Isaiah says God will call the remaining people holy, and set a cloud above them by day and a pillar of fire by night to protect against any attack. This recalls the cloud and pillar of protection God set between the Israelites and the Egyptian army as they were preparing to escape across the Red Sea.
Application: As I read about protection for Jerusalem, I can't help noticing that Jerusalem has been much in the news recently, since our president broke with longstanding tradition to officially recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. There has been increased violence in the West Bank, and Palestinian representatives have made statements calling into question the United States' ability to be a neutral broker of peace talks after this move. Representatives of the major historic churches in Jerusalem, including Lutheran bishop Munib Younan, even sent a letter to the white house imploring the United States to continue recognizing Jerusalem's international status, reading in part,
"Christmas is upon us soon. It is a feast of peace. The angels have sung in our sky: Glory to God in the highest, and peace on the earth to people of good will. In this coming Christmas, we plea for Jerusalem not to be deprived of peace, we ask you Mr. President to help us listen to the song of the angels. As the Christian leaders of Jerusalem, we invite you to walk with us in hope as we build a just, inclusive peace for all the people of this unique and holy city."
I don't want this devotional reflection to sound like a partisan political post. I really don't. If you happen to feel differently from me and these Christian leaders about this issue, please know that I seek dialogue and mutual conversation with you, not to divide or condemn. I pray for our leaders often, just as I pray for our country and for God's world.
Having seen the beauty of Jerusalem--the ancient sites, the places where Jesus walked, taught, prophesied, suffered, died and was raised to life again--I pray for the peace of that city in a special way. I do pray that the cloud and pillar of protection God promises in Isaiah will one day stand guard for the Holy city. But in the mean time, Jerusalem--in Hebrew, city of peace--is only as Holy and as peaceful as humankind makes it. So in this Advent season, this season of longing, I long for the cloud and pillar of protection to materialize in our own hearts: through our willingness to hear one another's concerns, and look out for one another's welfare, when we agree but especially when we disagree.
Prayer: God, for the peace of Jerusalem, I pray. For our president and for other decision makers, I pray. For the cloud of protection, for peace and wisdom in our hearts through your Holy Spirit, I pray. May your Holy City be made holy by our walking in Christ's way. May the city of Shalom be made more peaceful by acts of kindness and understanding. May your peace prevail on earth, beginning with people of good will, and spreading to all humankind. Amen.