1 The Lord God’s spirit is upon me,
because the Lord has anointed me.
He has sent me
to bring good news to the poor,
to bind up the brokenhearted,
to proclaim release for captives,
and liberation for prisoners,
2 to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor
and a day of vindication for our God,
to comfort all who mourn,
3 to provide for Zion’s mourners,
to give them a crown in place of ashes,
oil of joy in place of mourning,
a mantle of praise in place of discouragement.
They will be called Oaks of Righteousness,
planted by the Lord to glorify himself.
4 They will rebuild the ancient ruins;
they will restore formerly deserted places;
they will renew ruined cities,
places deserted in generations past.
This “holiday season” between Thanksgiving and Christmas can be especially challenging for people in mourning. Some mourners find joy in remembering their loved ones by going through photographs and talking with friends and family about their memories. Others grieve by staying active, so they don’t have time for sadness. Still others are immobilized by grief and will need extra compassion. Grief is a normal process and each person’s experience is unique to him/her because every loved one and every moment together is unique.
Isaiah’s passage reminds us that the Holy Spirit is the One that brings healing to our lives, replacing ashes, the symbol of mourning with a CROWN. Christ enters our lives with joy, wrapping us in praise, replacing mourning and discouragement! And so we look at sweet baby Jesus with hope, peace, joy and love in our hearts, and we sing a soothing lullaby “Away in a Manger.” Although there may be tears in our eyes, we give thanks for the gift of God’s presence surrounding us and comforting us.
By Kathleen Stolz
For Pondering & Prayer
According to Luke 4: 18-19a, Jesus used the first verse, plus the beginning of the second verse from Isaiah 61 as the introduction to his ministry. You might want to read that passage now. What special scripture passage do you go to for guidance or inspiration for your life?
Isaiah 61:4 speaks of rebuilding and renewing “ruined cities, places deserted in generations past.” There are millions of people in our country who need affordable housing, and there are hundreds of cities waiting to be rebuilt and renewed. On this day, let us pray for individuals and families who are homeless, who are under-employed, and who need the help of God’s “Kin-dom” to reach their God-given potential.