For I the Lord love justice,
I hate robbery and wrongdoing;
I will faithfully give them their recompense,
and I will make an everlasting covenant with them.
Their descendants shall be known among the nations,
and their offspring among the peoples;
all who see them shall acknowledge
that they are a people whom the Lord has blessed.
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.
For as the earth brings forth its shoots,
and as a garden causes what is sown in it to spring up,
so the Lord God will cause righteousness and praise
to spring up before all the nations. (Isaiah 61:8-11)
December 24 is doing double duty as the 4th Sunday of Advent and Christmas Eve. I was at the church, running through my sermon when I really took a look around the empty sanctuary.
Listen, some of you know I have a bit of a running commentary about the carpet and upholstery. I know in the 1970s, it was probably the chic-est color, but the rusty orange sometimes makes 2000s me grimace. I got married in that sanctuary 15 years ago and had to make a conscious decision to just ignore the color of the carpet and pews. On Thursday night, I spilled wax all over part of the carpet and wondered who would be the first person to accuse me of intentional sabotage. (It did not take long for someone to do so, by the way!)
But I looked around today and had to stop and sit down on the steps for a moment. I thought about the moments of beauty I’ve witnessed in that space. Weddings, funerals, worship services, youth group rehearsals, choir rehearsals, prayer gatherings, Ash Wednesdays, Maundy Thursdays, Christmas Eve worship services every year I’ve been here, except for 2004, when it snowed and we had to cancel it. I thought about the day when Jason and I stood on the top step, facing each other and exchanging vows to love, honor, and cherish each other all our days, and I thought of a day more than a decade later when we both sat, side by side, on that top step, silently contemplating the hardest moments of our marriage. I thought about the times I’ve stood at the baptismal font with someone receiving the sacrament, the times I’ve stood at the communion table and held the bread and the cup aloft, the times I’ve had the honor of standing in the pulpit proclaiming the word of God–those moments when I knew in my heart that I had not misheard God’s calling, no matter how long and tiring the road was. I thought about the ways God has spoken to me and to others through the words of the five pastors I’ve worked with, how many hands have been shaken and how many hugs have been exchanged during the Passing of the Peace, how many times a visitor has been greeted and warmly received, how many joys and concerns have been shared, and the countless prayers that have been offered for the sake of those in need of prayer.
And the word I thought of, the one that was on my mind all day anyway as I searched for a reason to take a photo, was “exult.”
Exult /iɡˈzəlt/ verb: To show or feel elation or jubilation
God is so good. I am so grateful.