There are many incredible sights, features, and effects that the natural world gives to us each day. For many of us, we have the opportunity to see many of them on display all around us, on a fairly consistent basis. For example, many of us can think back to a breath-taking sunset, or the first green buds of the spring, or the pop of color in the fall, or the silent beauty of a heavy snow. The images are majestic and beautiful. Other examples of this take us to the far reaches of the globe. Several people I know have been able to witness some of nature’s other masterpieces like the scenery of Alaska or the fjords of Norway. While I’m sure these sights are exquisite, having never seen them in person myself, I know there is one unique aspect of these places that might be difficult for me to adjust to or appreciate: the midnight sun.
For those of you who might be unfamiliar, the midnight sun is a natural phenomenon that occurs during the summer in locations that are either north of the Arctic Circle or south of the Antarctic Circle. The display is just as it sounds: the sun shining in the middle of the night. This essentially means there is continuous day. The darkness that invites the internal clocks in our bodies to bring us to bed is thrown into a loop. The moon that tells us that it might be time for some sleep is essentially void of its power. I don’t know about you, but I think I would have a hard time trying to get to sleep with the rays of the sun shining through the windows at 2:00 am!
As seemingly unfathomable as this is to me sitting here in south-central Minnesota, this does give me a reminder of another place that has no need for the warming, life-giving light of the sun and yet it is bright and alive there all the time. As we continue in our series through the book of Revelation, we come again to Chapter 21 where the Apostle John is receiving a vision of heaven; the Holy City. As God is revealing this image and this scene to John, there are a few things that stand out to him that he finds surprising and amazing all at the same time. In verses 22-25, he writes about what he sees and says:
I did not see a temple in the city, because the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are its temple. The city does not need the sun or the moon to shine on it, for the glory of God gives it light, and the Lamb is its lamp. The nations will walk by its light, and the kings of the earth will bring their splendor into it. On no day will its gates ever be shut, for there will be no night there.
Imagine that! A city with no lights…a heaven with no church! Here on this Earth and in this time, we have need for the sun. We need it to do its thing; to rise when it’s supposed to, to shine as it needs to, to set as it was intended to, and the cycle repeats itself all over again. We need it’s guiding presence. The same goes with the Church. As believers, we need the Church; we need it to be a part of who we are and how we live, we need it to deliver to us the grace and truth of God, we need it for it’s encouraging community. And yet, both of these things are imperfect to perfectly deliver to us all that we need. They are not as good as it gets.
This is what is so amazing about heaven…about the Lord of Heaven. His presence is so full, so fulfilling, so perfected, and so immense that His mere existence shines so that the sun does not have to. The presence of God delivers a light, protection, security, and community so bright and so perfect that there is nothing to fear, there is nothing to hide, there is just God in all of His power and glory. It is this awesome, life-giving presence that we not only await someday to see in glory, but this is also a presence to promises to walk with us now…today. God desires for you to feel and know and trust that He is here right now; right in the middle of your hardships and difficulties, right at the heart of your joys and hopes, right in the center of your day to not only remind you and encourage you for right now, but to show you a glimpse of what is to come. A place where all the wrongs are made right, all the darkness is gone forever, where all of the nights are turned today.
Just like if I were to visit Greenland and not be able to sleep because of the sun on my face at night, I don’t think I’m going to be getting much sleep in heaven either…but I think I’ll be just fine with that.
Pastor Ben Bigaouette