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 brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and release to the prisoners; to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor, 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. 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. 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. 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 61:1-4, 8-11
Perhaps these words from Isaiah will be our words for leaning in as our Advent days continue. These are words that remind us that even though we are experiencing hard times, there are sisters and brothers – not far from us – whose lives are much, much harder. The prisoners and those who are oppressed are held closely in Isaiah’s words, held now in God’s light. The brokenhearted are seen in lovingkindness and promise; their pain now to be bound-up.
In the days of Isaiah every 50 years was declared the year of Jubilee. During the year of Jubilee debts were cancelled and land was redistributed so that balance returned to communities and to each family. For the “have’s” this was a year when some of their holdings were lost, for the “have not’s” this was a time of restoration and healing. The year of the Lord’s favor…balance…restoration.
For those of us who mourn, we are especially included in today’s reading: a garland instead of ashes, oil of gladness, a mantle of praise instead of a faint spirit. We are to be comforted the words say. Perhaps the comfort is to be an outer balm for our inner pain. Perhaps we are seen by the Holy One as if for the first time. Perhaps the pain of those who mourn is experienced, and here we are given a vision of great strength. We, who mourn are to someday be called oaks of righteousness. Once bent over living in and through our deep despair, here we are promised to be called strong, rooted living testaments to our living faith.
These are leaning in words. They acknowledge the brokenness of many of our days. They bear witness to the ones who for years have been on the outside looking in. Here, Isaiah remembers God’s promise and covenant. Here, as we lean in we are drawn closer to the One who proclaims the good news, drawn closer to the One builds up what has fallen down. Here our spirits will lean in to the Spirit who calls us all to remember our blessings.
Breath Prayer: “Leaning” “in”
Holy God, as you anointed Jesus with Spirit to comfort mourners, bind up the brokenhearted, proclaim release to prisoners, and bring good news to the oppressed. So anoint us, as Christ’s living body, we pray to go and do likewise. Amen. (Prayer form North Decatur Presbyterian church worship 12/14/14)
believes in beginnings and beginning again, in holding on and letting go, in God's presence as close as our next breath. Lesley works as a hospice Bereavement Coordinator in Atlanta. She is an ordained minister in the UCC and has just completed her second book, "Grief and the Psalms: Companioning the Moon in 29 Days" (to be released early in 2015).