Culture At Large

Advent All Around: the holiday shimmer of New York City

Jes Kast

This is the third installment in Advent All Around, a Think Christian series that sees reflections of Advent in the culture at large.

The holidays are in full gear and New York City is shimmering with lights. Deck the windows of the stores on Fifth Avenue. Rock around the Rockefeller Christmas Tree. Tourists are peppering the city like tinsel on a tree, all wanting to take their picture with the iconic glitz and sparkle of the New York City holidays. There is so much joy on the streets of NYC!

As I walk through the city sidewalks of this inspiring city on the third week of Advent, my mind continues to ruminate on the Isaiah passages for the season, especially Isaiah 2:2: “In days to come the mountain of the Lord’s house shall be established as the highest of the mountains, and shall be raised above the hills; all the nations shall stream to it.” These words continue to echo in my mind, leading me to focus on the universality of God’s welcome and joy.

In this radical and glittering welcome of diverse cultures we will find joy.

This passage reminds us that in God’s presence all are welcome. God’s love extends to all nations and all persons. All nations shall stream to the place where God reigns. It reminds me of the shimmer of New York City. The Hebrew word used for “stream” is the word nahar. Nahar can mean “flow,” but it can also mean “sparkle” or “to be lightened.” When the nations come together to the mountain of the Lord they don’t just flow like a stream - they sparkle like the holiday lights of New York City! In this radical and glittering welcome of diverse cultures we will find joy. Or, as Isaiah 56:7 exclaims, “these I will bring to my holy mountain, and make them joyful in my house of prayer.”

The joy of this unity of worship within our diversity of cultures will shine brighter than all the lights of New York City combined. Yet somehow it is easier for us to imagine the happiness that we hope our money can buy from the department stores and door-buster sales, all lit with sparkling lights and oversized snowflakes. But it is in our many streams flowing together that we put the “glow” in “glory,” shining and shimmering in our glorious diversity as we worship God to bring light and joy to the world.

As followers of Christ we are obligated to each other. Our unity in Christ is not a theoretical concept; it is part of the work we are called to partake in. This unity is what causes us to sparkle, shine and shimmer. And as we contemplate joy on this third week of Advent, may we discover and embody the joy that comes when our great diversity finds glorious unity as we worship and glorify God. There is great joy when the people of God gather together and make room for each other!

Topics: Culture At Large, Theology & The Church, Christmas & Easter