The Book of Revelation… stuffed full of monsters and other nightmares and visions of heaven floating down from the sky: What could that possibly have to do with Advent? Why, there is not a single reference to Santa Claus or elves or reindeer or mangers or shepherds in any of the 22 chapters of the book. Although, rather intriguingly, the “super-hero” of Revelation is a lamb (not a lion or a bear).
Revelation is the focus of Holy Trinity’s Sunday at 9 am forum – thanks to videos from Trinity Wall Street featuring American theologian Michael Battle. Just as we celebrate the Gospel stories of God coming into the world in the form of the infant Jesus at Advent and anticipate the Christmas feast, Battle wants us to see Revelation with its mix of mind-boggling images as another kind of Advent that culminates in a vision of a “new heaven and a new earth”.
Battle urges us to see the visions of John of Patmos not only as vivid renderings of the conflicts and culture wars of his time at the end of the first century, but also as a guide to people in the 21st century seeking to understand the reality of conflict and the power of reconciliation in our times.
“The book of Revelation is really a letter,” writes Battle in his book Heaven on Earth: God’s Call to Community in the Book of Revelation, which is the basis for our Sunday forum series. “It provides a message moving between despair and hope. Such apocalyptic literature provides such movement to warn us that there is a collision ahead. Ordinary language is not sufficient to describe this collision. There must be visions, poetry and dreams. Apocalyptic imagery is odd for a reason – namely because we lack a full reference point from which to describe the newer reality in our midst.”
“John’s vision is that the church should not flee from this world,” writes Battle. “John’s focus is rather on changing the world through nonviolent resistance to evil powers and principalities… Historical evidence suggests that John’s apocalyptic vision was not about Christians fleeing from the world but more about proactive Christianity – that is, what happens when Christian commitments are lived out in the world. Such expectation will naturally produce persecution from corrupted powers and governments.”
The Advent series of forums begins at 9 am in the Trinity Square cafe with a viewing of a video, and a group discussion. No advance preparation is required, though some may want to read – or re-read – the Book of Revelation. For those that cannot attend the discussion sessions, here is a link to the Trinity Wall Street materials: https://www.