The New Jerusalem

The reading below, is a familiar one, taken from the Book of Revelation. The Book of Revelation is a collection of prophesies and visions attributed to John. Its language is strange for us, 21st century modern people, who are used to looking at things scientifically and factually. Maybe not too bad a way of listening to this short passage, is as if it is taken from a yet-to-be-released Harry Potter film.

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Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth; for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. And I saw the holy city, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying,

“See, the home of God is among mortals.
He will dwell with them;
they will be his peoples,
and God himself will be with them;

 he will wipe every tear from their eyes.
Death will be no more;
mourning and crying and pain will be no more,
for the first things have passed away.”

And the one who was seated on the throne said, “See, I am making all things new.” Also he said, “Write this, for these words are trustworthy and true.” Then he said to me, “It is done! I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end. 

You hear, esoteric language, talking about places that we cannot really imagine. This time of year, just before Advent, a lot of the readings and themes we hear in Church are about visions, prophecies and what may happen in the future. And by ‘the future’ we don’t mean ‘what happens when we are older’, but what will ultimately happen to humanity and the world. Of course, the answer is, that we don’t know, and so in some sense these visions are speculation of what might happen. However, in some way, one might say, this journey is also mirrored in our everyday lives.

That, I think, is something that is very well captured in the Harry Potter narrative. So, let’s have a closer look at Harry’s journey, and particularly the role of good and evil, and what happens to him at the very end of the story – which of course turns out not to be the end, but a new beginning, but let’s not get ahead of ourselves.

Harry starts by living in a world where good and evil are very well defined. People are either friend, or foe. The unloving and mean Dursleys, who seem to hate Harry with unrelenting intensity, and of course, not to mention Voldemort himself. In contrast to that, the love of Harry’s friends, and supporters, and the kind wisdom of Dumbledore.

However, as the story unfolds, and we like Harry get to know more about the people involved – and Snape is an early example of this – it seems to become more confusing. Those who seemed to be on the good side, are suddenly not free of blame, and those who seemed to be nothing but evil, come to help to find the truth. Ultimately, our confusion as readers is summed up in Sirius Black’s words to Harry: “We’ve all got both light and dark inside us. What matters is the part we choose to act on. That’s who we really are.” It is a truth that took Harry years to discover, and it is a truth that also we will need to find for ourselves.

We all do it: as soon as we meet someone, we judge. I suspect many of us, put a label on people, which may not be just ‘good’ or ‘bad’, but probably something similar. Over time, as we grow older, and get to know people, we do indeed realise that this is far too simple a way of looking at things: we learn that indeed each of us is both, and what matters is that we try to do good.

That insight can be transformational: because it helps us to accept others for who they are, and it helps us to accept ourselves for who we are. Neither covering up our mistakes, nor looking for fault all the time. It is that kind of transformation that the reading from the Book of Revelations points to as well. One could say, possibly, that the New Jerusalem is that insight into ourselves and others. The insight that God already had from the beginning, and will have to the end.

Of course, real life isn’t quite like Harry Potter, although sometimes it feels like it. But that search for who we are, how we relate to others, and ultimately how we choose good over evil, is something we all do – hopefully.

I don’t know if you have already seen the new Fantastic Beasts film – I haven’t – but at least now you have a genuine excuse to do so, or to have a Harry Potter marathon over Christmas. Or, of course, pick up one of the books from the library! Reading fiction is not a too bad way to start to understand who we are …

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