Now he brought me back to the entrance to the Temple. I saw water pouring out from under the Temple porch to the east (the Temple faced east). The water poured from the south side of the Temple, south of the altar. He then took me out through the north gate and led me around the outside to the gate complex on the east. The water was gushing from under the south front of the Temple.
He walked to the east with a measuring tape and measured off fifteen hundred feet, leading me through water that was ankle-deep. He measured off another fifteen hundred feet, leading me through water that was knee-deep. He measured off another fifteen hundred feet, leading me through water waist-deep. He measured off another fifteen hundred feet. By now it was a river over my head, water to swim in, water no one could possibly walk through.
He said, “Son of man, have you had a good look?”
Then he took me back to the riverbank. While sitting on the bank, I noticed a lot of trees on both sides of the river.
He told me, “This water flows east, descends to the Arabah and then into the sea, the sea of stagnant waters. When it empties into those waters, the sea will become fresh. Wherever the river flows, life will flourish—great schools of fish—because the river is turning the salt sea into fresh water. Where the river flows, life abounds. Fishermen will stand shoulder to shoulder along the shore from En-gedi all the way north to En-eglaim, casting their nets. The sea will teem with fish of all kinds, like the fish of the Great Mediterranean.
“The swamps and marshes won’t become fresh. They’ll stay salty.
“But the river itself, on both banks, will grow fruit trees of all kinds. Their leaves won’t wither, the fruit won’t fail. Every month they’ll bear fresh fruit because the river from the Sanctuary flows to them. Their fruit will be for food and their leaves for healing.”
Ezekiel 47:1-12-The Message
So. . . why is this strange, small passage included in our texts for Advent? Ezekiel’s visions are wild and strange and quite wonderful, but Advent?
As I read through this lush and descriptive chunk of scripture, it helps me to remember that Advent speaks to all the ways and all the times in which Jesus comes to us — 2000 years ago in Bethlehem, as a tiny, vulnerable baby; right now, at this minute, as a living force and source within all those who carry his name; and somewhere out there in the unseeable future, when he will come visibly and powerfully, bringing with him the new heaven and the new earth.
Ezekiel is talking about that last time with his words. That time when the River will be vividly visible, when the Water of Life will be the clear source of all that is good and ripe and nourishing. “Where the river flows, life abounds,” the word comes to Ezekiel. And the Word comes to us in the same way.
Yes, we still wait the coming drama, the rending of the skies, the shouts of victory and joy. But even now, if we look for the River, we will find life, abounding. Abounding.
In the midst of death, there is life; in the midst of despair, there is joy; in the midst of darkness, there is light. Yes!
Give us eyes to see you, Lord, our life, our joy, our light. Eyes to see, hearts to rejoice and minds to imagine that great River, spreading its way to the sea, transforming everything in its path into flagrant, glorious LIFE.