Back in November, back when I was choosing the scripture verses for our December Advent readings, I felt drawn to the Old Testament prophecies about Jesus.
I was especially drawn to these verses in Isaiah 61 ~
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 gladness instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair.
And those verses remind me of this verse in the Psalms ~
The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.
And so, back in November, I decided that we would read these particular verses on Christmas Eve and pray for the brokenhearted.
I had no idea then that we would be a nation of brokenhearted people grappling with the most evil of actions. Brokenhearted for the families whose loved ones were hideously murdered, families who have unclaimed gifts beneath their Christmas trees, families planning funerals when they should be planning parties. Brokenhearted for the students and teachers who survived but who hear the sounds from that morning echoing in their minds. Brokenhearted for the first responders, for the medical examiners, for the investigators who cannot get the images of that day out of their heads. Brokenhearted for the mothers and fathers of little boys who struggle to manage their anger, explosive kids whose tantrums and rages are frightening, mothers and fathers who secretly fear their sons could be the next headline-maker. Brokenhearted over innocence lost.
Back in November I typed out the scriptures, neatly folded the slips of paper and placed them behind the doors of our Advent box. Promises hidden away, prepared in advance, ready and waiting to be read at the precise moment they would be needed. Much like the promise Isaiah wrote on the scroll, ready and waiting until the timing was right.
And then, when the world was dark and broken, God sent the Light. Jesus was born. He became one of us. He came to live and die and live again so that he could bind up the brokenhearted, comfort all who mourn, exchange beauty for ashes, gladness for mourning, and praise for despair.
Jesus was born into the midst of brokenness and evil and darkness and despair. He came to save those whose spirits are crushed. He came to set all things right.
And in the midst of our broken hearts ~ our broken world ~ He comes near.
As we read and pray during this Advent season, I hold fast to an expectant faith that once again Jesus will be near the brokenhearted, binding our hearts and saving our crushed spirits.