This is the first in a weekly series of Advent devotionals reflecting on what an experience of infertility can teach us about waiting for Jesus here at Faith Forward.
He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners . . . Instead of your shame you will receive a double portion, and instead of disgrace you will rejoice in your inheritance. And so you will inherit a double portion in your land, and everlasting joy will be yours.” Isaiah 61: 2, 7
Some of my favorite Advent texts to preach on come from Isaiah. I mean, who doesn’t love an opportunity to “to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor” and “people who have walked in darkness have seen a great light” on Christmas Eve?
Two Advents ago, only a week and a half before Christmas, I lingered extra-long in my sermon writing chair one morning with cup of coffee in hand with my Bible opened to that week’s Isaiah lection #61. I’d read the passage numerous times before and even preached a subpar sermon on the text in seminary. But on this cold morning bundled up in a fuzzy blanket, something about the beauty of the phrase “He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted” caught my attention anew. My eyes could not move on to the next sentence. For it was true: this preacher was still so brokenhearted.
One our sixth, going on seventh year of trying to welcome a child into our family after completing IVF 8 times and 2 failed adoptions already—there was just so much to continue to wonder and weep about. “Why have you forgotten me?” was my cry time and time again. Even worse, soon I would be asked to preach about a baby being born again. And nothing in me wanted to do that. God and dreams of having a baby kept cracking me open. I was so angry.
I thought I was angry that I couldn’t seem to have what everyone else I knew (or so it seemed) got with such ease.
I thought I was angry about the brave face I had to keep putting on at family gatherings when that question about “When are you going to have children?” came up.
I thought I was angry because I knew Kevin, my husband, would be the best dad and so for the universe to deny him that chance seemed cruel beyond belief.
But the real reason that anger bubbled up in me came from Isaiah 61. I felt ashamed. I was ashamed my body could not give me a baby.
But I hated talking about shame and avoided it in conversation when my best friends tried to get me to go there.
Who wants to admit they’re ashamed?
As my eyes made it to verse 7 I read this: “Instead of their shame my people will receive a double portion and instead of disgrace they will rejoice in their inheritance; and so they will inherit a double portion in their land, and everlasting joy will be theirs.”
All the commentaries I read sitting at my feet, of course, would tell me this verse was about restoration in exile—that the nation of Israel would not be punished forever. That the time would come when they would feel God’s favor again and sing with hope anew.
But for me, reading my story into this text and sitting for a long minute to take it all in, I felt overwhelmed with comfort. For the word shame was named yes (just as I needed to learn to do more often), but it was not the end of the story. Redemption was on its way. Maybe like to Israel, God was saying to me one day you’ll “receive a double portion too.”
Isn’t that what the season of Advent is all about? Waiting for something unimaginable?
Today if you’re waiting for a baby to enter your family or something else, take heart. There’s always hope. God gives us the promise of everlasting joy.
Loving God, it’s easy to forget you are with us. We are angry for the state of our lives, for the state of our world, for pain in the lives of those we love. Help us talk more about our real feelings so that we might see what you long to give us instead. Amen
Elizabeth Hagan is the author of Birthed: Finding Grace Through Infertility recently released through Chalice Press. She’s an ordained American Baptist minister serving churches through intentional interims in the Washington DC area. She blogs about her adventures in non-traditional mothering over at Preacher on the Plaza.