Prophets like Isaiah promised that all nations would come to Jerusalem, to the house of the Lord. And so the temple in Jerusalem provided a Court of the Gentiles, an extensive place surrounding the Holy of Holies (above) where foreigners as well as Jews could come to hear the word of God,
Them I will bring to my holy mountain
and make joyful in my house of prayer;
Their burnt offerings and sacrifices
will be acceptable on my altar,
For my house shall be called
a house of prayer for all peoples.
Thus says the Lord GOD,
who gathers the dispersed of Israel:
Others will I gather to him
besides those already gathered. (Isaiah 56)
It’s significant that Jesus in a symbolic act when he arrives in Jerusalem at the end of his public life cleanses the temple as a sign that that time had come. The Gentiles are called; he calls them to himself. In John’s gospel, read today, Jesus speaks from the temple, most likely from the Court of the Gentiles. He’s the One whom John the Baptist has pointed out and his mission will be confirmed by his Father who will glorify him in his Kingdom.
The Advent and Christmas seasons are not only celebrations for believers, confined to a church or the homes of believers. They take place in the “Court of the Gentiles”, they bring light to the world beyond Christianity. We may not realize it, but the world listens and sees, however dimly that may be. The light of our celebrations shine in a dark world that needs hope.
In the Advent and Christmas seasons, Jesus speaks in the “Court of the Gentiles”.
Gentiles marked as outsiders,
Not welcome in the house of God.
Who today are the outliers?
Cautious of stepping on sacred sod,
Afraid to enter the holy nave.
Locked out of opportunity,
Cast aside, unworthy to save.
Passed by as they fade away.
Who will I embrace today?