Let’s talk about Mr. Sketch smelly markers for a minute (remember those?). Yes. Dark blue is not just navy, but blueberry, pink is not pale, but watermelon. You expect the same old markers, but instead you get to see and smell whatever you create.
Those Mr. Sketch markers may be a little bit like what happens when God’s Spirit enters the black and white time the prophet Isaiah writes about here. It has been rough. Jerusalem and the beloved temple have been besieged by enemies. Many Israelites are killed and more are sent into exile in strange foreign lands and now, years later, they are coming back home. But home is a mess. All they see and smell is destruction and despair. These people are depleted; hope seems lost.
And then unexpectedly and specifically God’s word enters in.
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.
Ashes will be replaced with a beautiful garland, from the scent of mourning will come the oil of gladness, the cold, faint and hopeless will wear the most splendid coats. There are no generalities in what happens when God intervenes, it is specific, tangible and glorious. The depth of pain will be met with the far reaches of joy.
So how will this all happen? This is the crazy part. God’s Spirit anointed the prophet to bring this good news. God intentionally involves human agency as he carries out his vision of bold joy and rebuilding for Jerusalem. And the oppressed, brokenhearted, captive people who receive this unexpected and specific good news will be fortified to be the builders of the new city. Everyone will be a part of what will come—it is made real and accessible to all.
There is something about this season of Advent that reveals the darkness and despair of our time. In the barrage of consumerism, there is still such need for families to have basic things like safe housing, food and clothing. Depression, loneliness and grief are heightened as memories of what has been flood back and expectations for what should be creep in.
Yet God knows and enters in. The promise comes close enough for us to see it and smell it, and we are the ones who will bear this unexpected and specific word in the world! We are anointed to be the bearers of this good news. We are the ones who will bring, bind up, proclaim, release, comfort and provide. We have the ability and the resources; we are called. So go do it for a friend who is brokenhearted, a family who is barely making it, a neighbor who needs to experience abundance in the midst of scarcity. And do it in a way that only you can do.
God delights to see the compassion and to smell the joy that we will bring to this world, and its people who need it. Come, Lord Jesus.