Editor's note: This is the first in an Advent devotional series based on Isaiah 61:1-3. Some of the posts in this series were first published as part of UGM Executive Director Phil Altmeyer's Heart to Heart column in the Mission News. We hope you will join with us over the next four weeks as we attempt to narrow our focus and prepare our hearts and minds to celebrate the miracle of Christ's birth.
Starry Night over the Rhone by Van Gogh
By Barbara Comito, UGM Director of Marketing & Communications
I didn't grow up celebrating Advent...or any liturgical traditions, for that matter.
In recent years, however, I have come to recognize the need in my soul for a time of preparation and anticipation.
The weeks from Thanksgiving to Christmas can easily speed by in a whirlwind of list-making, shopping, baking, letter-writing and party-going. If I am not intentional about slowing things down, I can hit the Christmas aftermath of scattered bows, torn paper, extra pounds and gift returns without ever really thinking about what it all means. I can miss the deep joy that comes not from the good gifts of family, friends, carols and frosted cookies but from the best gift of adoring Jesus.
A homeless shelter might not seem like the logical place to find Christmas joy, but if you'll join me over the next few weeks, I think you'll find it an appropriate place.
“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,
to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor
and the day of vengeance of our God,
to comfort all who mourn,
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 oaks of righteousness,
a planting of the Lord
for the display of his splendor.”
“There is no less holiness at this time – as you are reading this – than there was on the day the Red Sea parted…” Annie Dillard
In Luke 4, when Jesus was asked to read Scripture in the temple, he read a portion of Isaiah 61, and said, “Today this Scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.” The great news for us, the news this devotional series is meant to share, is that those words in Isaiah go on being fulfilled every day – all around us – through His Spirit. There is no less holiness today than there was 2,000 years ago when Jesus walked the earth.
Because of my position with the Union Gospel Mission, I have a front row seat to this holy work. I see the good news being proclaimed to the poor, broken hearts being healed, captives being set free and comfort being extended to those who grieve and mourn. I see spirits of despair being replaced with garments of praise, and I see men and women becoming oaks of righteousness, “a planting of the Lord for the display of his splendor.”
My prayer is that this blog series will give you a front row seat, as well, and that, as we prepare to celebrate Christ’s birth, we might also celebrate his ongoing work in our midst.
We'd love to hear how you are preparing your soul for Christmas. Tell us in the comment section below.
The devotional below expands on this topic and looks further into Isaiah 61:1-3. Click below to download your free copy.
Ways to Help the Homeless this Christmas season: