Today's Lectionary Text
Strengthen the weak hands,
Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened,
As a clergy person serving in extension ministry (outside of a local church), I instead have a “home” church, I attend worship regularly in this church, but I am infrequently in worship leadership. However, on Dec. 2, the first Sunday of Advent, I was the scripture reader for one of the services in my church (shout-out to Lincoln South Gate UMC).
The lectionary readings for the day included a prophetic passage from Malachi, and Zechariah’s song of prophecy following the birth of his son, John. I normally follow the standard script for introduction of the scripture reading, but I couldn’t resist a small moment of rejoicing that I was able to read some of the prophetic readings that are part of the Advent season. From her seat at the front of the congregation (the handbell tables blocked the “normal” seat for the pastor), my pastor shared her affirmation of my off-script comments with “Advent nerds unite!”
I share all of this because of how deeply I feel for an embrace the season of Advent. My commitment to Advent will not be a surprise to any of the churches where I have served as pastor. It is also not something that is unique in my family. My maternal grandmother spent years having “conversations” with multiple pastors about where to place and when it was appropriate to light the pink candle in the Advent wreath!
When I was inevitably drawn into the pink candle “conversation” (as the in-house/family clergy person), I would instead invite Mam’ma to think about what that pink candle represented (joy) and then ask how her “conversation” with her pastor reflected the joy that is part of the anticipatory season of Advent. I encouraged her to share why having a Joy Sunday was important to her during the season of Advent. For Mam’ma, the issue wasn’t about being “right” about the placement or lighting of the pink candle – not really. Instead, it was about her need for anticipatory (as opposed to realized) joy in worship during Advent.
Isaiah 35:3-7 is a song or poem of anticipatory joy. It is a vision for the future when the redeemed will return to Zion. It includes words of strength and encouragement as well as details of how the redeemed will experience Zion (lives and land are transformed). I could get distracted by the specific images and wonder how exactly the eyes of blind will be opened or how the burning sand will become a pool. Instead, I invite you to join me in the larger “why” of this passage. It was shared with a people who were in exile – who needed a word of hope and anticipatory joy. Where do we find that need in ourselves today? I hope that the words from Isaiah 35:3-7 will strengthen and encourage each of us in our own journeys to Zion.
-Rev. Karen Jeffcoat
Registrar, Great Plains Board of Ordained Ministry
Prayer for Reflection
Strengthen us in these days, O Lord. Remind us of the vision of the future where your kingdom is fulfilled. May our words and actions be a reflection of that future that provides strength and encouragement to others today. Amen.
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