Isaiah 61:1-3

The whole Isaiah passage for today is here.

The spirit of the Lord God is upon me, because the Lord has anointed me; he has sent me to bring good news to the oppressed, to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and release to the prisoners; 2to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor, and the day of vengeance of our God; to comfort all who mourn; 3to provide for those who mourn in Zion— to give them a garland instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, the mantle of praise instead of a faint spirit. They will be called oaks of righteousness, the planting of the Lord, to display his glory. Isaiah 61:1-3

As I read this for the fifth or sixth time today, the word that stands out to me is provide in verse 3.

I think about all the people I have seen mourning. I think about all the times I have mourned. I think about all the ones who are mourning this year…this month (goodness, so many of my loved ones have lost some of their own loved ones in just the last month).

I’ll never forget being in line at one of those superstores in December a few years ago, and the sixty-something man in front of me asking the twenty-something cashier if she was ready for Christmas.

“Oh, I don’t really enjoy Christmas anymore. My mom died in December when I was a kid, and Christmas just makes me so sad.”

Really, this sweet cashier, telling her truth to a stranger who asked her an infamous December small talk question. My heart contracted and expanded as I took in her words and her expression and her obvious pain.

The man, however, had his own response. He gave a little uncomfortable laugh and replied, “Well, don’t you think it’s time to get over that?”

Oh, the look on her face. I’ll never forget seeing his words, his demands of her to stop making him uncomfortable, really, affect her.

Of course, when it was my turn to check out, I spoke softly to her and told her I was touched by her story and I was so sorry for her loss and I understood why Christmas was so hard and that is ok. “I’m used to people like him,” she told me. “No one understands.”

The spirit of the Lord God is upon me, because the Lord has anointed me. He has sent me to…provide for those who mourn…

It’s not on those who mourn to get it together and put on a happy face and just get over it already. It’s part of our calling to provide for the ones who mourn. To bring to them the goodness, grace, peace, hope, joy…the garland, the oil, the mantle.

It’s on us to demonstrate that their mourning is tender to God. That God will meet them in their grief and sadness and not demand that they feel differently, but rather, give them gifts within their mourning and grow them into something beautiful, rooted in where they began.

I still pray for this woman I met at the superstore in December. And I think about her as I think about so many others who struggle with the season. It’s more people than seems obvious–I know that because, as a pastor, I hear those stories. And i know that lots of people put on a brave face for family or friends or society in general, and pretend to be jolly and joyful as the days darken and the holiday draws near.

May we be those who partner with God in providing for those who mourn.