Advent 3: Good News!

It was the music that did it.
Two violins, three flutes, electric and acoustic guitars, piano, two male vocalists.
And of course, the arrangements.
(Thank you, Bob Gross)
As we sang, a lush accompaniment buoyed us, with pieces of familiar carols circling around the praise choruses.
I could hear, “Away in the Manger” over and above the words to, “Amen, Amen.”
 We sang songs about waiting, songs appropriate for this season.
And then we sang this small chorus, a setting of the words from the Old Testament lesson for the morning, Isaiah 61:1-11.
And something about the way this song was worded,
the way the melody housed those words,
the way we all sang it together – well, it just got me.
“Beauty for ashes, garments of praise for my heaviness.
Beauty for ashes, take this heart of mine and make it Yours.
I delight myself in the Richest of Fare,
trading all that I’ve had for all that is better;
a garment of praise for my heaviness.
You are the greatest taste.” 
I thought about my mother and her increasing frailty.
I thought about my brother and the hard things he is dealing with.
I thought about my daughter and how she is living this truth so beautifully just now, after a long season of ashes.
I thought about my own life and how the good news is what I hunger for, the good news that takes ashes away and replaces them with beauty; that takes heaviness away and replaces it with gossamer thin, lightweight, flowing garments of praise.
And I wept.
Tears of sadness, yes.
But tears of truth, too.
Tears of yearning, I think.
Yearning for the people I love to experience good news in their lives. Yearning to be one who carries that good news, who channels it, who shares it, who lives and releases and savors it. 
This, tall graceful angel – a word that means ‘messenger’ in the biblical text – this angel stands guard over the word, trumpeting the message of truth and love and grace to all who will listen. She is surrounded by evergreens and candlelight, pungent pinecones and softly glinting ornaments.
 And as I gazed at her during worship, I found myself listening for good news as the word was read: 1 Thessalonians 5:16-24 (which I wrote about yesterday) and Luke 1:26-38, the record of Mary’s visit with one of those messengers of God and her remarkably poised response. Not asking, ‘Why?’ Only asking, “How?”
What might have seemed like terrifying news was apparently received as GOOD news by this young woman.
And I wondered.
Do I know how truly ‘good’ this news is?
Do I believe it, deep down in the marrow of me?
Do I live as though I believe it?
The preached text for the morning was full to the brim with all kinds of good news:
“The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is on me, because the LORD has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted,
to proclaim freedom for the captives,
and release from darkness for the prisoners,
to proclaim the year of the LORD’s favor
and the day of vengeance of our God,
to comfort all who mourn,
and provide for those who grieve in Zion –
to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes,
the oil of joy instead of mourning,
and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair.”

These words of Isaiah the prophet are the very words Jesus read out into the synagogue as he began his ministry.
These words spell out what the Good News looks like, how it reads, how it rolls.

And here’s the kicker:
these are also the words that describe what we are to look like as we follow in the dusty footprints of our Savior.
These are the truths that describe what disciples are supposed to be and to do.
We are to be those who bring:
the bandages,
the keys to long-locked places,
the elixir of freedom to the darkest of cells,
the words and the deeds,
the hugs and the home-cooked meals,
the prayers and the extra miles,
the very scent of the oil with which Jesus was anointed – 
the oil of joy in the midst of despair.
So the question I’m left with, after the music and after the tears, is this one:
Do I smell like Jesus? 
 Does my life carry the scent of invitation,
of welcome and renewal,
of hope and praise and joy?

Not the false scent of polite,
“Oh, I’m just fine, really I am – just fine.”
Not the musky cover-up of pollyannish ‘cheer.’
But the real deal.
The splash of tears when sad things come,
the sigh of frustration when folks don’t ‘get it,’  
the head-thrown-back, hearty laughter at the hilarity of being human, 
the willingness to say, 
“Yeah, this is hard. And I’m sorry it’s happened to you.”
That’s what true good news looks like.
Binding up the brokenhearted cannot happen unless we first admit to our own broken hearts, unless we testify to God’s ability to heal the heaviness we carry.
On the way to our healing,
the Carpenter wept over the city,
he wept at the loss of his friend, Lazarus,
he flung the whips around in anger at injustice in the temple,
he chided his friends for falling asleep while he wrestled so hard with death that he pushed out beads of blood instead of sweat.
Our Healer was broken – by life and the failures of friends rather than by sin – 
but he was broken, even as we are broken.
And we, too, are called to be wounded healers,
messengers of good news in the midst of all kinds of bad tidings.
Because we must carry with us always the powerful truth
that the Christmas tree becomes the cross,
the manger stall becomes the tomb,
and the news must get very bad indeed, before the Truth breaks forth in great waves of goodness on Easter Sunday morning.
 But break forth it does.
For news like this simply cannot be contained.
And it is so very, very good.
Joining with Michelle tonight, with Jen and Emily F. tomorrow, with Ann on Wednesday and Emily W. on Thursday, with thanks for each of them – for their glorious writing skills and their hearts for God: 
tuesdays unwrapped at cats 



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Comments

  1. Diana, you wrote of “great waves of goodness” and that’s what your blog post today reads like–wave after wave after wave of insight, truth, hard stuff, beautiful stuff, hopeful stuff–great waves of goodness. I am very moved by it and must now go read it again. Thank you, dear friend, for sharing this with us.

    Linda

  2. Because I am a slacker, I’m way behind in my devotional reading in The Message. This lands me smack dab in the middle of Isaiah during this Advent season, so I think God is so good that He works even through my slacker tendencies. I read these words just last week and am just delighted to be wallowing around in Isaiah during this Advent season.

    Also, just talked with the women in my church about using all of our five senses in our relationship with Christ. Was having a hard time coming up with examples for the sense of smell. Love what you had to say here: “Do I smell like Jesus? Does my life carry the scent of invitation,of welcome and renewal,of hope and praise and joy?”

  3. I so needed this today. Thank you for letting God love me through your words and your obedience to Him.

    I feel I have a new sister in you, Dana, one to challenge & uplift me.

    And btw, I, too, am rejoicing in reading the OT, just finished Isaiah and in Jeremiah, reading the words Christ read himself. What blessings are in God’s word!

    Your sister in Jesus,
    Gail

  4. Diana, you are already a channel.

  5. Diana, you are indeed an incredible conveyer of the Good News, and you do it in a real, true, genuine way. I am so very grateful for you.

  6. wonderful! amazing- lovely! thank you for being real. ashes to beauty! YES!!!

  7. You do smell like Jesus to me . . . which is a funny thing to say, since I have never met you in person. But your kind and thoughtful comments on my blog . . . smell like Jesus. I remember the sweet things you said when my very godly dad was having open heart surgery. I love that about you and your words.

    And now, I read of your mom’s frailty. Since you are a word girl. . . can I recommend my two favorite books on ailing moms? One is “The Summer of the Great Grandmother” by Madeleine L’Engle, which tell of the last summer she cared for her mom. The second is “No More Words” by Reeve Lindbergh, which tells of her caring for her mom, Anne Morrow Lindbergh, as she was frail and ailing. Both have brought comfort.

    Thanks for sharing your Advent worship experience.

    Fondly,
    Glenda

  8. Your words here, Diana, are as golden as these photos. So much richness and, as Linda says, waves of goodness.

    When Jesus came into Jerusalem the last time, having been anointed, He carried the fragrance of a king–and it seems that even in the midst of His wounding, that scent would have lingered. I want that so–in the midst of my own pain to smell like Him, like hope and praise and joy.

    Thank you for this.

  9. oh friend. there is heaven in your words…

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