By Kendall Smith
Daily Lectionary reading: Psalm 42; Ezekiel 47:1-12; Jude 1:17-25
Selected passage for reflection: Ezekiel 47:1-12
“In my vision, the man brought me back to the entrance of the Temple. There I saw a stream flowing east from beneath the door of the Temple and passing to the right of the altar on its south side. The man brought me outside the wall through the north gateway and led me around to the eastern entrance. There I could see the water flowing out through the south side of the east gateway.
Measuring as he went, he took me along the stream for 1,750 feet and then led me across. The water was up to my ankles. He measured off another 1,750 feet and led me across again. This time the water was up to my knees. After another 1,750 feet, it was up to my waist. Then he measured another 1,750 feet, and the river was too deep to walk across. It was deep enough to swim in, but too deep to walk through.
He asked me, “Have you been watching, son of man?” Then he led me back along the riverbank. When I returned, I was surprised by the sight of many trees growing on both sides of the river. Then he said to me, “This river flows east through the desert into the valley of the Dead Sea. The waters of this stream will make the salty waters of the Dead Sea fresh and pure. There will be swarms of living things wherever the water of this river flows. Fish will abound in the Dead Sea, for its waters will become fresh. Life will flourish wherever this water flows. Fishermen will stand along the shores of the Dead Sea. All the way from En-gedi to En-eglaim, the shores will be covered with nets drying in the sun. Fish of every kind will fill the Dead Sea, just as they fill the Mediterranean. But the marshes and swamps will not be purified; they will still be salty. Fruit trees of all kinds will grow along both sides of the river. The leaves of these trees will never turn brown and fall, and there will always be fruit on their branches. There will be a new crop every month, for they are watered by the river flowing from the Temple. The fruit will be for food and the leaves for healing.”
We are familiar with the advent themes of light and darkness–and many familiar passages draw attention to that. We put up Christmas trees to signify the light that is coming. We light candles to remind us of God’s Spirit among us, and of the coming Messiah. But this passage introduces some new imagery for us to ponder this Advent season: water. At the time of my writing this, I am gazing out my window and seeing brown and crispy lawns. In some spots, it is just dirt, cracked and dry. Nothing has grown here for several months. We have lived through the driest season in over a century and are in desperate need of rain. The area farmers gave up and turned their barren crops into straw. Many of my flowers simply went dormant long before they normally do. I am watering a handful of plants still, but it isn’t in hopes of their blooming any longer. It’s simply to keep them alive for next season. Hopefully, next year we’ll get some rain.
Reading Ezekiel’s vision this fall was refreshment for my soul. And I would imagine it would have been for its first hearers: water that makes salt water fresh, water that is teeming with fish, water that makes trees produce fruit in abundance! Rather than the barrenness that I see out my window, this is a picture of non-stop life!
We anticipate Christ’s coming as a baby at Christmas. But this passage reminds us that Jesus, as an adult, embodied these things, too. His body was the Temple he promised to rebuild. He was the source of Living Water for the woman at the well. He was the One whose voice alone caused his disciples’ nets to be overflowing with fish. He was the One who could command the fig tree to dry up or bear fruit. He was the One who, rather than be made unclean by the presence of those suffering and dying, would make those around him clean–purifying them with simply a word or a touch.
In this passage, the prophet is asked, Have you been watching? And as he looks up from the waters, he realizes the bounty that this river has created. This is no ordinary water flowing from the temple. It has the power to make dead things come alive!
As we purposefully wait this Advent season, preparing our hearts for the coming of our Lord, may we also lift our gaze from the waters in which we’re swimming. Have we been watching? Allow this season to be a time of purposeful noticing. Where is new life growing? Where are dead things being made alive? Where is the Living Water of Christ’s Presence transforming you?
In addition to the lights and candles we use as symbols to remind us of the coming Hope, is there a way you could include a jar of water?
flow through my life today.
Make those things that are dead come alive.
Lift my gaze from these turbulent waters
and allow me to see what is springing to life around me.
I wait in hope for your Living Water to transform my world completely!
About the Author
Kendall Smith is an elementary science teacher, and is currently a seminary student through North Park Theological Seminary. She loves reading, writing, thunderstorms, and long walks outside. She and her brother write a blog called Not All Who Wonder Are Lost (www.invitationtowonder.com/wonderings) where they write about science, faith, doubt and the goodness of God.