Devotion for December 15, 2020 from Pastor Tim Huff of Holy Trinity:
The Spirit of Justice and Joy
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.
Isaiah 61:1-4 NRSV
Isaiah 61 contains the passage that Jesus reads in the synagogue in Nazareth in Luke 4. Jesus quotes this text at the very beginning of his ministry. It’s his agenda. It should be our agenda too.
The words of Isaiah 6 are God’s way to wrap us in loving arms and comfort us in our times of distress, worry and trouble. Our God loves us enough that God has sent us a gift that comforts us in our trouble.
The spirit of the Lord God is upon me and upon you, upon us! God has anointed us to preach good news to the poor. God sends us to bind up the brokenhearted to proclaim freedom for all captives.
Maya Angelou’s poem, “Caged Bird” captures a similar sense of yearning even in the midst of brokenness:
“The caged bird sings with a fearful trill of things unknown but longed for still.”
The caged bird sings of freedom it has not yet experienced, just as Isaiah writes of a return from exile while the Israelites are still held captive in foreign lands. Throughout Isaiah’s many prophetic and poetic passages, beauty and brokenness are woven together into a tapestry of a hope not yet realized.
After these many long months we feel liked “caged birds.” Pain, anxiety, grief and illness have silenced our songs. As Christmas approaches, most of us are weaving both lament and celebration into this unusual Advent season. There is brokenness and sorrow in our world and in our individual lives, but there is also beauty: when a friend offers a word of support, a leader role models the values of justice and righteousness, and people gather to support the most vulnerable among us.
If we look closely at this text, we see that it is the mourners who become the healers, the restorers. Those who mourn become “oaks of righteousness”It is they who “shall build up the ancient ruins, they shall raise up the former devastations; they shall repair the ruined cities” (61:3,4). God transforms acts of mourning to acts of restoration for the whole community. Planted in sorrow is new life, new possibility. Through God’s promise, the wounded ones offer restoration to all.
God’s gift comforts our hearts because it shows us all the love that God has for us.
Imagine decorating not just trees and houses this year, but decorating the world with our presence as the people of God.
How might each of us shine a ray of light in the darkness?
How might each of us bring healing to the world’s brokenness?
How might each of us reveal a spirit of both justice and joy?