The Psalmist, Isaiah the prophet and Mary the mother of Jesus, offer hope-filled words of redemption, joy and gratitude.  On this third Sunday of Advent we’ll be focusing on “restoration”, a journey toward wholeness in body, soul, and spirit.  God loves to take broken pieces and restore them and make them whole.   God loves to take lives that are in the valley of the shadow of death and lead them to light.  God loves to take brokenness and breathe healing.  God loves to give grace and loves to restore fortunes.  Along these lines, I offer these scriptures for your reflection.

Psalms 126:1-6 NIV:    When the LORD restored the fortunes of Zion, we were like those who dreamed.  Our mouths were filled with laughter, our tongues with songs of joy. Then it was said among the nations, “The LORD has done great things for them.” The LORD has done great things for us, and we are filled with joy. Restore our fortunes, LORD, like streams in the Negev. Those who sow with tears will reap with songs of joy. Those who go out weeping, carrying seed to sow, will return with songs of joy, carrying sheaves with them.

Isaiah 61:1-4; 8-11:   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. They will be called oaks of righteousness, a planting of the Lord for the display of his splendor.  They will renew the ruined cities that have been devastated for generations. They will rebuild the ancient ruins and restore the places long devastated; they will renew the ruined cities that have been devastated for generations.

For I, the Lord, love justice; I hate robbery and wrongdoing.
In my faithfulness I will reward my people and make an everlasting covenant with them. Their descendants will be known among the nations and their offspring among the peoples.  All who see them will acknowledge that they are a people the Lord has blessed.”  I delight greatly in the Lord; my soul rejoices in my God. For he has clothed me with garments of salvation and arrayed me in a robe of his righteousness, as a bridegroom adorns his head like a priest, and as a bride adorns herself with her jewels.  For as the soil makes the sprout come up and a garden causes seeds to grow so the Sovereign Lord will make righteousness
 and praise spring up before all nations.

Luke 1:39-55:   At that time Mary got ready and hurried to a town in the hill country of Judea, where she entered Zechariah’s home and greeted Elizabeth.  When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the baby leaped in her womb, and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit.  In a loud voice she exclaimed:  Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the child you will bear!  But why am I so favored that the mother of my Lord should come to me?  As soon as the sound of your greeting reached my ears, the baby in my womb leaped for joy.  Blessed is she who has believed that what the Lord has said to her will be accomplished!   And Mary said: “My soul glorifies the Lord and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, for he has been mindful of the humble state of his servant.  From now on all generations will call me blessed, for the Mighty One has done great things for me—holy is his name.  His mercy extends to those who fear him, from generation to generation.  He has performed mighty deeds with his arm; he has scattered those who are proud in their inmost thoughts. He has brought down rulers from their thrones but has lifted up the humble. He has filled the hungry with good thing but has sent the rich away empty. He has helped his servant Israel, remembering to be merciful to Abraham and his descendants forever, just as he promised our ancestors.”  

FOR REFLECTION:  Where are the areas in your life where God has restored you?

Isaiah’s was bringing good news to the oppressed, binding up for the brokenhearted, liberty to captives, and release of prisoners.  Justice, healing, and freedom were coming.  The suffering would not go on forever.  Have you ever had that moment where there was suddenly a light at the end of the tunnel when there hadn’t been one before? 

Two pregnant women chatting about the mysterious workings of God in their lives. Mary rejoices in God’s activity in her life.  She comes across as very much alive, with a revolutionary spirit: she is passionate about justice and the reign of God. Does any of this resonate within your own heart?

The Psalmist, Isaiah and Mary were all dreamers, all servants of the Lord.   What are your dreams for our church carrying out the mission of a servant?  (Jesus’ mission)