Wednesday, December 14, 2011

The Joy of the Lord

"But He was pierced for our transgressions, He was crushed for our iniquities; 
the punishment that brought us peace was upon Him, 
and by His wounds we are healed." (Isaiah 53:5)

We have now lit the third candle in our Advent wreath, the one signifying joy. To me, it's a reminder of the joy that comes from knowing, serving, and following our Lord. In times of deep sadness or difficulty, Nehemiah 8:10b exhorts us with these hopeful words,  

"This day is sacred to our Lord. Do not grieve, 
for the joy of the Lord is your strength.”

The joy of the Lord is our strength.


As many of my readers know, I am married to a pastor who serves at a local church and also as a hospital chaplain. While working the night shift at the hospital this week, Russell became keenly aware of the presence of Jesus. He was called in to minister to a family whose premature infant was not doing well, and the parents asked for prayers.

As Russ baptized their 26-week old newborn, he laid his hands on the baby's forehead and proclaimed, "You have been sealed by the Holy Spirit in baptism and marked as Christ's own forever." And while making the sign of the cross on the child's forehead, Russell prayed over him, ending with these words from the prophet Isaiah,  

"By His wounds (you have been) healed."

That instant, at the sight of Russell and the awestruck parents, and for the first (and only) time since his birth, the tiny child opened his eyes. Time seemed to stand still as he looked around thoughtfully. He took in his surroundings, filled the room with innocence, hope, and wonder, and then he closed his eyes again, leaving the place transformed by a gaze that seemed to cry out, Yes! Yes! Yes!

Yes!

The above words from Isaiah gain some of their profound significance from the fact that they were written about the Messiah hundreds of years before the birth of Christ. The New Testament writers clearly speak of Jesus as the fulfillment of Isaiah's words. Indeed, by His wounds we are healed.

When Russ shared this powerful moment with our children and with me, he reminded us that even in great sorrow, there is joy because of Jesus, who transforms everything by His mere presence. Whether the infant lives or dies, Russell and the child's parents know that something remarkable happened in that room. Joy broke through the sadness, the fear, and the doubts, and healing followed. The joy spread by the One who was pierced for us broke through, changing everything.

During this third week of Advent, we welcome the joy that comes from knowing and staying close to our Lord - our Savior and Healer. May we rejoice as we know Him better and surrender more and more to God's perfect will for our lives.

Rejoice!
Dr Mari

For more Advent reflections, read Advent Word of the Day: Devotion. To learn more about the tradition of the Advent wreath, read The Light of the World: Advent Reflections.

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