Monday, December 9
Jerusalem evokes intense feelings of nostalgia and historical grounding in Christians. For centuries it was the location of the Jewish temple and the place where Jesus spent his final week before his crucifixion. The Book of Acts (ch. 2) relates how the Holy Spirit descended on Jesus’ disciples in Jerusalem. The city is the heart of “the Holy Land” for Christians and Jews. In medieval times, Christian and Muslim armies fought to control the city. The New Testament ends with the evocation of a new Jerusalem coming down to earth (Rev. 21:2). In the Christian tradition, Jerusalem was often interpreted as a synonym for heaven, the place where God’s promises for us are fulfilled.
For the psalmist, Jerusalem is the focal point for the worship of the Lord God. It is important as the place “where the tribes go up … to praise the name of the LORD” (v. 4). Jerusalem is a city of peace by the very sound of its name (salem/shalom, peace) and because the LORD God, whose presence dwells there, brings peace.
Today Jerusalem sometimes provokes conflict. It is a city divided between Palestinians and Israelis, each of whom make claims on it as “theirs.” Muslims and religious Jews clash about access to the part of the city where both want to pray. President Trump moved the U.S. embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, providing support to Israeli claims of sovereignty over the city. Some American Christians agree that the city should belong exclusively to Israel; others that the city should be shared between Israelis and Palestinians. As in the time of the psalmist, so today the city needs our prayers for peace (v.6).
In Advent, Christians intentionally ground our hopes for global justice and peace for Jerusalem—indeed, our hopes for shalom in our everyday experience—in the God revealed to us in Mary’s child, Jesus. Christian hope is not anchored in a single geographic location (as freighted as some places may be with historic or personal significance) but in the risen Jesus’ promise to be with us always (Matt. 28:20). This Advent season we pray and work for the peace of Jerusalem with our feet (as a hymn from my childhood puts it) standing on the promises of God.
– Reverend Dr. Timothy D. Lincoln
Research Professor in Theological Education, Director of the Stitt Library & Associate Dean for Institutional Effectiveness