Sunday, December 25, 2011

Oil of Joy and Beauty for Ashes

(and I keep using Little Women screen caps
for my holiday posts!)
"Joy to the world, the Lord is come!" Isaac Watts' hymn proclaims. "Let earth receive her King, let every heart prepare him room, and heaven and nature sing!" Christmas is a time of joy and rejoicing, a glorious celebration of Jesus' birth.

For many, though, the joy of Christmas is countered by sorrow and sadness. At Christmas more than at any time of the year, the loss of loved ones is felt keenly. The glad tidings that Christ is born in Bethlehem are dimmed because of grief. This Christmas I know of many people who are suffering from the loss of family members and friends. This most wonderful time of the year is not wonderful for them. Pain and mourning are obscuring their joy.

And yet, that's exactly why Jesus came to the earth.

Luke 4:16-21 tells us of how Jesus traveled to the synagogue in Nazareth and spoke to the people there. He read aloud this passage from the book of Isaiah: "The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me, because He hath anointed Me to preach the gospel to the poor; He hath sent Me to heal the brokenhearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised, to preach the acceptable year of the Lord."

The King James Version of this passage is a little different in the Old Testament, because the book of Isaiah was written in Hebrew and the book of Luke in Greek. The original passage goes like this, "The Spirit of the Lord GOD is upon me; because the LORD hath anointed me to preach good tidings unto the meek; He hath sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to them that are bound; to proclaim the acceptable year of the LORD, and the day of vengeance of our God; to comfort all that mourn; to appoint unto them that mourn in Zion, to give unto them beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness; that they might be called trees of righteousness, the planting of the LORD, that He might be glorified. (Isaiah 61:1-3, emphasis mine)

Jesus Christ came to this earth as a human baby, God in the flesh. He was born for a purpose: to bring salvation to undeserving sinners, to bring joy and peace to this earth. He came to bind up the brokenhearted. He came to comfort all that mourn. He came to give them beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness. All for one reason: to bring glory to God in the highest.

"The people that walked in darkness have seen a great Light," Isaiah wrote, "They that dwell in the land of the shadow of death, upon them hath the light shined." That Light is Jesus Christ. "For unto us a Child is born, unto us a Son is given, and the government shall be upon his shoulder and his name shall be called, Wonderful, Counsellor, the Mighty God, the Everlasting Father, the Prince of Peace." (Can't you just hear the triumphant orchestra in the background?)

Our Dayspring has come to cheer us and drive away the shades of night. He has pierced the clouds and brought us light. Rejoice, rejoice! Immanuel has come to ransom captive Israel.

"I will greatly rejoice in the LORD," Isaiah 61 continues. "My soul shall be joyful in my God; for He hath clothed me with the garments of salvation, He hath covered me with the robe of righteousness, as a bridegroom decketh himself with ornaments, and as a bride adorneth herself with her jewels. For as the earth bringeth forth her bud, and as the garden causeth the things that are sown in it to spring forth; so the Lord GOD will cause righteousness and praise to spring forth before all the nations." (verses 10-11)

We have been given beauty for ashes, oil of joy for mourning, victory for sorrow, light and life for darkness and death.  There is nothing lovely in us, nothing that would make the God of Heaven smile on us, and yet he loves us.  Deuteronomy 7:6 tells us that God loves His people simply because... He loves them.  And He loved us enough to send His only Son to be born into a miserable world, to die a cruel death for the sake of sinning people.  (Wow.)  He came to make his blessings flow, far as the curse is found.

"He will swallow up death in victory; and the Lord GOD will wipe away tears from off all faces; and the rebuke of His people shall he take away from off all the earth: for the LORD hath spoken it." (Isaiah 25:8)

So, good Christian men (and women), rejoice! Jesus Christ is born. The Desire of Nations has come to bind up the brokenhearted. Rejoice, for the mouth of the Lord hath spoken it.

"And that's what Christmas is all about, Charlie Brown."


Melody said...


Haha, you just had to stick Charlie Brown in there...;-)

Miss Dashwood said...

Couldn't help it... it just seemed to fit. :)

An Old-Fashioned Girl said...

I LOVE THIS POST!! Miss Dashwood, you are divinely inspired, and have a very Merry Christmas!

Ella said...

Merry Christmas!

Julia said...

Great post! I'm delighted to find that you're a fellow believer. :D ("Christian" gets tossed around a lot these days...)

Thank you for taking the time to share this message with your readers during this time of the year. I think many people's minds are more open to hearing about Christ during this season than usual.

Love & Blessings,

Alexandra said...

Hope you all had a merry Christmas!!!

Eva-Joy said...

I know this is totally unrelated to your post but I just want to let you know that I have nominated you for the Liebster Blog Award! Just check my post - to find out more.