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.
-Isaiah 61:1 (NRSV)
Much as my pastor is trying to help it feel like Advent, most of us are already acting like it's Christmas. With this season comes real celebration, of course. We're attending parties, singing hymns, visiting with family. At the same time, Christmas is, for many of us, a time of great sorrow and hardship. We think of dead friends and family and wish they were here to celebrate with us. Or some aspect of our life feels crushingly difficult and sad, and the cheery seasonal script we feel we're supposed to be following only magnifies the sorrow.
We need the adult version of the Christmas story—the story that recognizes that even though it's December, not everything and everyone feels cheery. What genuinely good news, then, to know that Advent is the season when we await not just a cute baby in a manger. During Advent we await the one who comes to bind up the brokenhearted.
And how much better to remember with Mary that binding up the brokenhearted is not something God promises to do in the distant, far-off future. No, as Mary proclaims in her famous prayer of praise, the Magnificat, God is already at work filling up the hungry with good things and exalting the weak. God is already suturing our wounds and succoring us in our loneliness. God is binding up our broken hearts, even now.
Prayer: Gracious God, comfort those who, during this season when we feel pressure to be joyful, are in fact, mourning. Succor those who feel bleak and who lead lives of suffering and hardship. Make yourself known to them as the one who binds up their wounds and frees them from their shackles. Amen.
Lauren F. Winner teaches Christian spirituality Duke Divinity School, in Durham, North Carolina. She is author of numerous books, including Wearing God: Clothing, Laughter, Fire, and Other Overlooked Ways of Meeting God.
From The Upper Room Disciplines 2008. Copyright © 2007 The Upper Room. All Rights Reserved. Subscribe to The Upper Room Disciplines, online edition.