“The spirit of the Lord God is upon me, because the Lord has anointed me;
he has sent me to bring good news to the oppressed, to bind up the broken-hearted,
to proclaim liberty to the captives, and release to the prisoners;
to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favour, and the day of vengeance of our God;
to comfort all who mourn; to provide for those who mourn in Zion— to give them a garland instead of ashes,
the oil of gladness instead of mourning, the mantle of praise instead of a faint spirit.” (Isaiah 61:1-3a)
As I was pondering these verses I happened to remember the Advent Candles that my home church used. I have not thought about them for a long time. I was reminded that the third week of Advent is the candle of joy or the shepherd candle. The passage we have today, the Old Testament passage may not relate to shepherds, but as I re-read the passage from Isaiah it certainly seemed to speak of joy. Joy is not necessarily happiness or fulfillment, but it has a promise of hope in it. Christ Jesus, as one pronouncement of the start of his ministry, read this passage from the scrolls in the synagogue. He said that it had been fulfilled in their presence. If that was the fulfillment, then the birth of Christ was the beginning.
“They will be called oaks of righteousness, the planting of the Lord, to display his glory.
They shall build up the ancient ruins, they shall raise up the former devastations;
they shall repair the ruined cities, the devastations of many generations.” (Isaiah 61:3b – 4)
One of the many emotions of Advent is joy; especially if you know what is coming. During the season of Advent one approach (as I have said before) is to not be aware of what is coming. To wait in “darkness.” But another approach is be aware of what the coming weeks will bring and to look forward to it with joy. And to know what has gone before that is darkness and sadness will be dispelled by light and joy. That is part of the ritual of lighting the Advent candles – piercing the darkness by the coming of light. And with light comes joy, that the dark days are behind us.
For I the Lord love justice, I hate robbery and wrongdoing; I will faithfully give them their recompense, and I will make an everlasting covenant with them.
Their descendants shall be known among the nations, and their offspring among the peoples;
all who see them shall acknowledge that they are a people whom the Lord has blessed.
I will greatly rejoice in the Lord, my whole being shall exult in my God; for he has clothed me with the garments of salvation, he has covered me with the robe of righteousness, as a bridegroom decks himself with a garland,and as a bride adorns herself with her jewels. (Isaiah 61: 8-10)
During Advent and the building up to Christmas, it seems like everything has been re-made anew. Bright and shining, with hope and joy brimming out in wild abandon. New Christmas finery reveals itself every day. This is what Christmas should be like – but sadly is not for some people. It is for those oppressed and broken-hearted that the message of hope is most especially for. It is hope that though their circumstances may now be devastated and ruined, that it will not always be so. Christ is coming!
“For as the earth brings forth its shoots, and as a garden causes what is sown in it to spring up, so the Lord God will cause righteousness and praise to spring up before all the nations. (Isaiah 61:8-11)
The Christ that spoke a message of joy and hope in the synagogue is the Christ whose coming birth we celebrate. May you beloved reader realize that joy and hope this Advent season. Selah!