Advent: On Fire For God


Today’s readings begin with fire: the prophet Elijah appears in a swirl of flames, and his very words are fire. Typically, we think of fire as being destructive: the recent fires that damaged or destroyed over 1700 buildings in Gatlinburg, TN are a shocking example of fire’s ability to destroy. Yet the fire surrounding Elijah seems not to be destructive. It allows Elijah the power to open and close the gates of Heaven! It is a whirlwind of fire that carries the prophet from sight, into the Heavens.

There is another time when fire appears in Scripture in a similar way: when the Holy Spirit descends upon Mary and the Apostles in the Upper Room. Tongues of fire settle upon them, allowing them to speak in languages they did not know, in order to preach the truth of Jesus Christ boldly and convincingly to the Jews gathered for Pentecost.

Yes, fire is destructive. It frightens us, and it should. Even now, with technology, state-of-the-art equipment and trained professionals, fire can wipe out both the natural and man-made with terrifying speed. But fire can also be used to create: photographer Rich Reid marvels at how fire has restored a forest:

After months of planning and executing this assignment, ecstatic is the only way to describe seeing a lush green forest on the last images on each card. This couldn’t be the same forest I left a few months ago? Not only was I amused with the prolific regrowth but also amazed my cameras survived this adventure …

Special thanks to Chuck Martin and Erick Brown from The Nature Conservancy and their fire crew for keeping me safe and providing this incredible opportunity to document fire in a positive way.

Fire can be positive. How? Because God makes it so. Elijah is able to use fire “to shut up the heavens” because of God’s power, not his own. Elijah ascends to Heaven in a chariot of fire because God allows it.

Just as our own words can be destructive (think of gossip or slander), our words can also bring forth life. When we speak life, when we speak of Christ, of God’s tender mercy in our lives, our words (just like Elijah’s) become a means of growth and grace. When we are on fire for God, our words can help sculpt lush new growth. We cannot play with fire, but when we pray with fire, God allows great things to happen.

Today’s blogger is Elise Hilton, who regularly writes the“Living the Good News” blog for Diocesan Trinity Publications. Hilton is a writer, speaker and former educator, who now serves in the Marketing & Communications Department for Diocesan Trinity Publications. She is also an avid reader, mom of five and passionate about music.