This Christmas season I’ve had the pleasure of traveling up and down the west coast to visit mine and my husband’s families. Our first stop was Seattle, WA to visit my in-laws.
There is a beautiful Presbyterian Church in Seattle on Queen Anne Avenue (the inside of which is pictured at the beginning of this post 😊), and we attend nearly every time we are in town. This church has special history for my husband’s family, as his parents attended for 30+ years and were married there. We held our second wedding reception there as well, so it is always a pleasure to visit a place with so many happy memories. This week, the sermon focused on the theme of the third week of advent: joy. I’ll admit that the sermon was rather moving for me personally because he gave several examples of families who had lost loved ones in their 40’s, which was my dad’s age when he passed away. I appreciated the pastor’s interpretation of an Isaiah passage that speaks about the joy that Jesus would bring the Israelites, and today’s mini blog will give you a glimpse into how God spoke to me through this message.
Mini Blog 3: Joy in the Ashes
First, some scripture:
1The 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;
2 to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor,
and the day of vengeance of our God;
to comfort all who mourn;
3 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.
Isaiah 61:1-3, NRSV
This passage contains several infinitives. There are three in particular (which are underlined in the text above) which exemplify the plans and the promises of Jesus’s coming. And each holds a truth about the joy we can expect and anticipate, especially during the waiting of advent season.
The bolded portion of this text also gives us three parallels. Instead of ashes, He gives us a garland (or crown of beauty in the New International Version). Instead of mourning, He brings gladness. Instead of a faint spirit (or a spirit of despair), He provides a mantle (or garment) of praise. In times when our spirits are low, He is always doing a new thing.
After a thorough (and enlightening) discussion of Isaiah 61, the pastor ended with two important thoughts about how to pursue joy.
1. Joy comes when we stand in the ashes.
We do not “muscle into” joy. It is not manifested by our efforts. Joy comes in when we don’t run from our pain, but neither do we despair because of it. When we stood in the ashes of our pain after my dad’s passing, God brought us joy in the hands of faithful friends who gave us meals, comfort, and company. He gave us joy in Himself, and in the knowledge that there is a space in forever where my dad is experiencing true joy because of having met his Maker. This Christmas season, there are still many, many places we can experience joy, through trials and triumphs and loss and love.
2. We can stand in our ashes while we watch for joy.
This passage and the promises it offers summon us away from the temptation to despair. Life will be difficult. We will face loss and heartbreak and despair. But we don’t need to stay there. If we watch for joy, we will find it.
“We do not obtain the most precious gifts by going in search of them but by waiting for them.”
Simone Weil (1909-1943)
Wait. Watch. God can bring joy into every day, into every situation, into every unexpected circumstance that leaves us on our knees. He can, and He will.
Let us wait and watch for joy this Christmas season. Let us set aside our business and put on a perspective of praise. Let us pray that we would remember the reason we celebrate: God sent His Son out of a deep, deep love, so that we could be saved and enjoy eternal life with Him. I would love to hear about your joy, so please leave a comment below or send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org. 😉
Author: Susannah Judd
Hello, my lovelies! I am the author and owner of wearethelovelyones.com. I am so excited to share in this journey through life and faith with you! One of my favorite things we are called to as believers is sharing life together. I also love cookies of any kind, my darling husband Caleb, and of course, Jesus himself. Check out my “About Me” page for more. 😉