as the flock of his people;
for like the jewels of a crown
they shall shine on his land.
For how great is his goodness,
and how great his beauty!
and for Jerusalem's sake I will not be quiet,
until her righteousness goes forth as brightness, and her salvation as a burning torch.
The nations shall see your righteousness,
and all the kings your glory,
and you shall be called by a new name
that the mouth of the LORD will give.
You shall be a crown of beauty in the hand of the LORD,
and a royal diadem in the hand of your God. (Isaiah 62)
But, the real reason why this chapter lodged in my memory is because of the verse I highlighted above. I was probably 16 when I first read this, depressed, ugly, lonely due to an innate mistrust of people, perfectionist. Like I said it was an awesome reading, the King will do this and that and it's going to be crazy and we'll rejoice and then verse 16, God spoke straight to me. I thought, oh! I'm so blessed to belong to those people in the flock that God has and will save. "Therefore", God said, "the next line is also yours. You are a jewel of my Crown and you are to shine." The fact that we are to be jewels of His Crown because of His own goodness and beauty, as the next verse says, was not lost on my little neo-Platonist self, either. I knew I could trust Him because my goodness and beauty (and that of everyone) derives from His own regal beauty. In my darkest moments, when the assaults of the enemy manifest as a multitude of voices, sometimes in my own head and sometimes from others' lips and which I would then play over and over, the first combative phrase I ever used was "I am a jewel of His Crown." It might be time to dust that sword off and bring it back out into the melee.
So, this was the daily lectionary reading for last Monday, I think, the 2nd day of Advent and I had determined to pray for beauty and light all Advent long and to ask my friends to do the same, as I mentioned before, feeling the gravitas of a black hole in my heart. I also know that God is faithful to work on me in penitential seasons so I could feel that Advent was coming. So, of course, when I read this on the first day of Advent, I thought, Oy, so that's how you're going to play this, Holy Spirit? Way to really start things off with a bang. Alright, let's do this, Thy will be done. Verse 12 reads, "Return to your stronghold, O prisoners of hope; today I declare that I will restore to you double." I would love to check the grammar to be sure, but I think the phrase, "prisoners of hope" is a really funny one; of course, it may simply mean, prisoners who still have hope, verses those imprisoned by hope, but I'm going to take the latter interpretation for now. That basically summed up how I felt after this reading, at the very outset of this season of Advent, of waiting and expectantly hoping but God having shown me that He's going to be at His purging kind of work in me. Sometimes it would be way easier to let that go and to lie down with the lies, vices and escapism, to refuse to live and shine, having been placed as one of the jewels of the Crown of the Most High. But, at the end of the day, I give thanks to my good and beautiful King who has made me a prisoner of hope!