Heaven

What a God we have! And how fortunate we are to have him, this Father of our Master Jesus! Because Jesus was raised from the dead, we’ve been given a brand-new life and have everything to live for, including a future in heaven—and the future starts now! – 1 Peter 1:3-4

Sleep in heavenly peace….

And heav’n and nature sing….

So God imparts to human hearts the blessings of his heav’n….

Peace on the earth, good will to all, from heav’n’s all gracious king….

He has opened heaven’s door, and we are blest forevermore….

And fit us for heaven to live with you there….

You get a gold star if you recognized each of the above as verses from various Christmas hymns. I never really noticed how often we sing about heaven at Christmas.

Perhaps that’s what prompted a child to ask his mother recently, “Where is heaven?” And being a good mom, she responded, “Go ask your pastor.” I thought it was a great question, and here’s my answer.

Sometimes in the Bible “the heavens” simply refer to the sky. Psalm 8:3-4 is a good example:

When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars that you have established; what are human beings that you are mindful of them, mortals that you care for them?

Here the Psalmist looks up into the starry expanse of the night sky and senses both the grandeur of God and the smallness of humanity.

But more often, in the Bible “heaven” is the dwelling place of God. While in the ancient imagination heaven was “up”, theologically it is more helpful (and, I think, more accurate) to think about heaven as wherever God is. And because God is everywhere, always, this definition of heaven has some profound implications.

Heaven is right here, right now. It is all around us and within us, all the time. Part of our spiritual formation is to awaken to this reality. And that awakening takes practice. The brokenness of this world obscures our vision, making it all too easy to only see what is ugly. As St. Paul said, “For now we see in a mirror dimly.” (1 Corinthians 13:12). But through spiritual practices such as meditation, prayer, mindfulness and The Daily Examen, the Holy Spirit sharpens our vision to see the presence of God in daily life more often and more clearly.

In the incarnation God became flesh and dwelt among us, bringing heaven to earth. With practice we can experience more of heaven here and now.

Through the death and resurrection of Jesus we will one day experience heaven fully, face-to-face, forever.

What an incredible gift, and one worth singing about!

I’m going to take a two-week blogging break for the holidays. In the meantime, I wish you a very Merry Christmas and Blessed New Year!

 Jeff Marian serves as lead pastor at Prince of Peace Lutheran Church in Burnsville, MN

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  • Ken Walter

    Yes, and I experience heaven when I am in those Spiritual times of joining in worship singing, saying a prayer, reading the Bible, being kind and encouraging, those fruit of the spirit actions, and these are the times I feel no pain, sickness, depression, distrust, lack of faith, or simply all the distractions from my God the world tries to draw me into. The truth sets me free. Thank you Father for sending Yourself in Jesus so I am saved and understand my humble servant responsibilites as Mary and Joseph and Elizabeth did when the Angel Gabriel visited and told them what was going to happen, and in their faith believed. Thanks be to God.