Thursday of the third week of Advent
You have turned my mourning into dancing;
you have taken off my sackcloth and clothed me with joy.
I wonder whether the poet’s experience with the threat of death is about illness or an injury sustained in battle. Battle wounds were surely grave threats. In a world without antiseptics and antibiotics, even a scratch could have deadly consequences. And what surgical techniques would have been available? He was probably warned to make peace with his maker. But now he stands. He has been rescued from death’s door. God has turned his mourning into dancing.
Few of us take up swords in day-to-day life. But we all face our battles, and sometimes we come home wounded. Such injuries may not carry us down to the grave, but they can rob us of life. Words and deeds corrode our spirits, steal our peace and rob us of joy. And, sometimes, perhaps too often, it leaks out to afflict those around us.
In such times it helps us to remember that the direction the holy breath blows is from mourning into dancing. He who came to the manger also came forth from the grave and breathes his Spirit upon us. God moves from bondage towards freedom, from death towards life, from the wilderness to the New Jerusalem.
The poet’s cry, “What profit is there in my death…Will the dust praise you?” is a valuable reminder that there is yet living to do. There is kindness to be done. There is praise to be sung. There is joy to be embraced. There is dancing to be danced.
Eternal God, Breath of Life,
Font of Hope, and our Eternal Joy;
Open the doors of our hearts, and the gates of your mercy
to come into our world and our lives,
and fill us with the joy of your presence.
— The prayer for Week 3: A doorway to joy