December 26, 2021 • Life for Leaders
Scripture – Isaiah 61:10-62:3 (NRSV)
I will greatly rejoice in the Lord,
my whole being shall exult in my God;
for he has clothed me with the garments of salvation,
he has covered me with the robe of righteousness,
as a bridegroom decks himself with a garland,
and as a bride adorns herself with her jewels.
For as the earth brings forth its shoots,
and as a garden causes what is sown in it to spring up,
so the Lord God will cause righteousness and praise
to spring up before all the nations.
For Zion’s sake I will not keep silent,
and for Jerusalem’s sake I will not rest,
until her vindication shines out like the dawn,
and her salvation like a burning torch.
The nations shall see your vindication,
and all the kings your glory;
and you shall be called by a new name
that the mouth of the Lord will give.
You shall be a crown of beauty in the hand of the Lord,
and a royal diadem in the hand of your God.
Read Isaiah 60-62 here.
Isaiah’s picture of restoration spoke to the Jerusalem of his own day. But it also speaks to the darkness and confusion and difficulty of ours. For the sake of that message, let us not keep silent.
Sometimes people ask as an icebreaker at parties and gatherings what book you would want to take with you to a desert island. No one has ever asked me in that situation which book of the Bible I would take, but I would have to say that Isaiah would be high on the list of finalists.
While Isaiah certainly has prophecies that call down judgment on his listeners, he also gives us beautiful images of God’s mercy and grace. I think often of the message of comfort from Isaiah 40 (the first few verses of which were used for some of the opening solos and choruses of Handel’s Messiah—and in fact, I just linked to the KJV there, because that’s how I hear those verses in my head.) Then there is Isaiah 53, also used in Messiah, which speaks of the one who will save us because “he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed” (Isaiah 53:5).
And then, of course, there is this passage, which simply erupts in metaphors full of beauty. The prophet, and those he speaks to, are compared to a bride ready for her wedding, to a garden with flowers springing up, to the dawn breaking, and to a beautiful crown used at the coronation of a ruler. It’s as if Isaiah is so full of joy that he’s just throwing every glorious thing he can think of into the mix all at once (and I had trouble cutting any of it out for this devotional). It’s part of a whole marvelous section from Isaiah 60-62 which is absolutely pressed down and running over with descriptions of the good things the Lord has in store for us.
Last year, I noted when I wrote to you on December 26 that the 26th is known as Boxing Day and as the feast of Stephen the Martyr. There is a group of major feasts of great saints during this week after Christmas Day, and today, December 27, is the feast of St. John the Evangelist—yes, the same John in some way behind the Gospel of John, that gospel which furnished us yesterday with the mystery of the Incarnation.
If John the Evangelist is to be identified with John the Apostle, as church tradition for many years has said, then he was probably one of the few apostles who was not martyred, living to old age and dying around the year 98. He lived long enough to see that the Word become flesh whom he had loved so dearly and followed so closely had not only died and risen again, but had touched off a movement that was sweeping the known world.
In Jesus, what Isaiah and so many other prophets had pictured so beautifully was at last coming to pass. The Lord was causing righteousness and praise to spring up before all the nations (Isaiah 61:11). Isaiah’s picture of restoration spoke to the Jerusalem of his own day. But it speaks also to the darkness and confusion and difficulty of ours. For the sake of that message, let us not keep silent.
How does Isaiah’s prophecy apply to your life?
How does it apply to the life of your church?
How does it apply to the life of your local community?
How does it apply to the life of the world?
Years ago, a song-writing friend of mine (the same friend who wrote a song about John the Baptist for me) wrote a song for this feast day called “A Fiddle Song for Saint John’s Day” in which he described John the apostle and evangelist being captured by the beauty of Jesus’s message and leaving everything to follow him. Listen to it here and read the lyrics here, and think about how you can follow the God whose love was prophesied and proclaimed by Isaiah and astounded St. John.
Lord, help me to rejoice in you. Amen.
Find all Life for Leaders devotions here. Explore what the Bible has to say about work at the unique website of our partners, the Theology of Work Project. Commentary on today’s Life for Leaders theme can be found here: Work’s Ultimate Meaning (Isaiah 60ff.)
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Jennifer Woodruff Tait (PhD, Duke University) is the editor of and frequent contributor to Life for Leaders. She is also the managing editor of Christian History magazine and web editor for the Theology of Work Project, and a priest in the Episcopal Church. She has written a book of poetry, Histories of Us. Jennifer lives in Berea, Kentucky, with her husband, Edwin, and their two daughters.
Click here to view Jennifer’s profile.