I will greatly rejoice in the Lord, my whole being shall exult in my God; for he has clothed me with the garments of salvation, he has covered me with the robe of righteousness, as a bridegroom decks himself with a garland, and as a bride adorns herself with her jewels.
As we travel the Advent road of waiting for Christmas, Isaiah reminds us that we have something to be joyful about. We have been accepted by God even though we don’t deserve it. Like the people of Israel who had been given another chance and was allowed to return to their homeland, we have been clothed in God’s righteousness, and we did not deserve it either. Deep down inside we all long for the kind of acceptance that is complete and unconditional, acceptance that covers us with a robe of righteousness, and God has provided this love and acceptance through Jesus Christ.
Isaiah is saying that the salvation that God will work for the Israelites will render them as beautiful and considerable as those who are clothed with the richest garments. When we recognize God’s glory in his love that accepts us and covers us with his righteousness, we are totally overwhelmed with joy. When we think of our relationship with God, knowing that we have done nothing to deserve such righteousness, joy fills our souls to overflowing.
When prayer or Bible study or worship becomes a chore, or a ritual to be done out of habit or just endured, then we have lost the clear vision of God’s complete love for us or the full meaning of what God is doing for us through his salvation. Joy is a huge product of our salvation. Joy is meant to be a centerpiece in our Christian life. Joy emits the energy of God’s grace. It moves us to sing, to have compassion for others, to reach out in love to tell and show God’s love to others. That is all because God has dressed us in the garment of salvation.
We once were lost and dead in sin. Then, miracle of miracles, Jesus reached down to us from the cross and brought cleansing and forgiveness. When he walked out of the tomb he brought us resurrection life. Our lives have meaning because we are in Christ. I am overwhelmed with joy at what God has done in me and I hope that I shall always rejoice in the Lord because of this gift.
Joy is different than happiness. Happiness is often brief- it literally depends on what is happening in the moment. Joy, however, is eternal because it is a gift from God that does not leave us, it is not transitory. Even in the greatest trial or the saddest moment, joy will be there waiting to bubble up to the surface like a spring of water. Hope and joy can make this waiting time of advent a wonderful journey.
When was the last time you were overwhelmed with joy in worship, in your prayer time, in Bible study, or in visiting with someone in a conversation about the Lord?
Lord Jesus, thank you for the gift of salvation. Because of your love, all my sins are gone, cleansed by your blood. Help me to remember this when the world overwhelms me and pulls me away into frustration, fear, or dissatisfaction. Amen.
Sue is NLS Spiritual Director, since 2019 and is a retired Lutheran Pastor (ELCA). Active in VdC since 1995, she has served two terms on the Board of the Texas VdC Secretariat, and also on the Texas Gulf Coast VdC Board as Spiritual Director since its start-up in 2017.