Advent Week 3: The Oil of Joy
By Evelyn Reams | December 11, 2022 | Return to Blog
Each week of advent traditionally focuses on a single theme, leading up to Christmas, when the birth of Christ is celebrated. This week's theme is Joy, which is poured out on those who accept the free gift of salvation.
“...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. " Isaiah 61: 3
A crown of beauty
In ancient times, ashes were a symbol of mourning and despair. When a loved one died, mourners would spread ashes on their faces and sometimes tear their outer garments as a sign of their deep lament. When Isaiah wrote that the Messiah would replace the ashes with a crown of beauty, it signified a new beginning in the wake of a tragedy. The kingdom of God would now welcome all who placed their faith in the finished work of Christ on the cross. He would vanquish the ashes of death and bring a crown of new life to those who placed their hope in him. Hallelujah; this promise endures today!
The Oil of Joy
In the Old Testament tradition, oil was used to consecrate people and items as holy unto the Lord. The birth and later sacrifice of Christ ushered in a new covenant. As God’s anointed one, Jesus was prophesied about numerous times in the Psalms and books of the Prophets. In Chapter 61, Isaiah wrote that Jesus would restore joy, praise, and righteousness among the people of God. In another passage, the psalmist celebrated the coming Messiah with the same imagery: “You love righteousness and hate wickedness; therefore God, your God, has set you above your companions by anointing you with the oil of joy. Psalm 45:7
A Garment of Praise
Christ also came to bring a garment of praise instead of despair. Today, as we celebrate his coming, putting on Christ is the way to find true joy in a world running far from the light. Romans 13:14 encourages us to “put on the Lord Jesus Christ,” that we may walk in a way that pleases God, no longer ruled by darkness and sin. When we put on Christ, God sees the bright robes of righteousness of the One who took our place.
Oaks of righteousness
Isaiah writes that those walking through grief would one day be called Oaks of righteousness, the planting of the Lord. In John 14, Jesus shares, “Very truly I tell you, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds.” In the kingdom of God, mighty trees can grow from the most humble and desperate of circumstances. Mary, a young girl of lowly status, suffered in a stable so that Christ could be born. Over the years, she would watch the righteous Branch of God, Jesus, grow up, lay down his life, and rise again in joyous victory.