Beauty for Ashes… and the Advent of Christ

SONY DSCI did a post yesterday on how I’ve come to appreciate the Advent season and the ability to join in the “waiting” process.

In Old Testament times the people of God were waiting for the promised Messiah. Messiah translates into English as “Christ,” so they were literally praying for, waiting on, and longing for the coming Christ.

Though God had promised that he would send the Messiah, it wasn’t 100% clear what the Messiah would look like or when he would come. There were however, a number of prophecies throughout the Old Testament given as signs for recognizing him when he arrived. Many of those are what undergird the narrative of the Christmas story (i.e. the Messiah would be born of a virgin birth, among many others).

I have been reflecting this week on one of the major themes in the Old Testament that painted a clear picture of the coming Messiah. Isaiah was the prophet who God most vividly revealed details to about the promised King, and in chapter 61 he describes some of the healing and redeeming nature of the coming Christ. This passage is filled with beautiful images of Advent – of binding up the brokenhearted, of bestowing a crown of beauty instead of ashes, and the planting of a mighty Oak.

I’ve sat with a lot of people this month who are in the midst of extremely difficult life situations. It’s heart breaking to watch the way people have to navigate the ugly reality of death, sickness, financial strain, family breakdowns, citizenship problems, and emotional turmoil (among others). It gives me some sense of comfort and joy to remember that in the midst of it, God too is brokenhearted, and that Jesus Christ himself joins us in this broken places.

It is in times like these that I am so grateful for Advent – for the waiting, the longing, the desperate desire for a Jesus Christ that is real and active and powerful.

Consider this description of the Christ that was prophetically given to Isaiah centuries before his birth. Remember that Jesus himself read these words to announce his arrival as the promised Messiah. Reflect on the beauty of them, and allow them to sink deep into you soul:

1 The Spirit of the Sovereign LORD is on me, because the LORD has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for 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 and provide for those who grieve in Zion– to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of joy instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair. They will be called mighty oaks, a planting of the LORD for the display of his splendor. 4 They will rebuild the ancient ruins and restore the places long devastated; they will renew the ruined cities that have been devastated for generations. (Isaiah 61.1-4)

May the Christ who proclaims freedom for captives and release from darkness meet you in a powerful and personal way this Advent season.

mighty oak

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