Advent Devotions: Leaves that heal the nations

Advent 2015. Design by Doug Puller/Bread for the World.

Editor’s note: This Advent season, Bread Blog is running a series of devotionals written by staff, alumni, and friends of the San Francisco Theological Seminary, which is affiliated with the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.).     

By Sarah Chivington-Buck      

Revelation 22:1-6 

Most of the time I prefer not to watch the news. When I do, I feel hopeless –overwhelmed by the violence and injustice that constantly erupts in all corners of the world. I was talking with a friend recently about how fear and anxiety seem to have taken ahold of our culture in America.

Every time I open a newspaper, I am given another stockpile of reasons to be afraid — another shooting at a school, a church, a movie theater. Terrorist strikes not just in places far and remote, but in Paris. Children are sold into the sex slave trade, even in our very own San Francisco. I could go on and on and on about all the terrible and terrifying things that are constantly happening in our world.

So how would we have hope in the face of this reality? Isn’t it better to slam our borders shut, hunker down with our guns, and do everything to keep the violence away from our bodies and our families?

I love this passage at the end of Revelation, because it says that the leaves of the tree of life are for the healing of the nations. And it is so obvious right now how badly the nations need healing! Not just Syria and Iraq, but France and America. We all are in desperate, desperate need of healing — from fear and anxiety as well as from greed and violence.

The Christian tradition tells us that we have a God who can bring about peace and healing, and that we get to participate in bringing about that reality so the lion can lay down with the lamb, the Christian can live with the Muslim, the American with the Syrian.

Take a moment and imagine the river of the water of life flowing through your own heart, washing away the fear. Imagine it flowing through your neighborhood, your city, your state, your country. Imagine it flowing through the Middle East and Africa, all around the world, the leaves that heal the nations drifting down and touching every one of God’s children.

Sarah Chivington-Buck is pursuing her Master of Divinity degree at San Francisco Theological Seminary.

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