Garments of splendor

Garments of splendor

As evening falls, my town is transformed.

 It is a pretty place by day, but in December, the night brings a special beauty.  Tonight, I set a brisk pace on the sidewalk.  It’s cold and I know where I’m headed.  There’s a certain shop I have in mind.

But along the way, I occasionally stop to enjoy the charm of the decorations.

I’ve been meditating for a few days on the image presented in the opening of Isaiah 52. Picking up the theme I wrote about in my last post, God’s people had, figuratively, fallen unconscious while drinking the cup of his wrath.  Now that the cup is gone forever, he calls for them to rouse themselves to a new life:

Awake, awake, Zion,
    clothe yourself with strength!
Put on your garments of splendor,
    Jerusalem, the holy city.
The uncircumcised and defiled
    will not enter you again. 

Shake off your dust;
    rise up, sit enthroned, Jerusalem.
Free yourself from the chains on your neck,
    Daughter Zion, now a captive.

For this is what the Lord says:

“You were sold for nothing,
    and without money you will be redeemed.” (Isaiah 52:1-3)

I reach my targeted storefront window.  These are truly splendid dresses.  But the verse is not saying, “Get up!  Off with your sweats!  On with your dinner gown!”  God, in this metaphor, has laid out nothing less than priestly garments for his people.  (Alas, there is no storefront with those in my town!)

This is the amazing truth of the redemption accomplished for them: they are made holy.  The entire city of his people.  Not a faker among them.  Like priests, they now have access to the presence of God, not because of their own righteousness, but because a sacrifice has been made.  The redemption price has been paid… but not with money.

Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we had glorious clothes that reminded us of our redemption?  In a way, I do.

I bought this tie in China, years ago, when we were there to adopt a little girl.  Despite it being a bit too garish a red and a bit too short, I wear this every Christmas eve to remind me of the Christmas day we received our daughter.  (A gift beyond comparison.)

In commemorating our adoption, this tie also reminds me of my own redemption.  Jesus wanted us so much, he came down to this dark world to bring us back to him, to make us part of his family.  To give us access to the Father.

Peter speaks of the effect of Christ’s redeeming work in the same terms as Isaiah above:

But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.   (1 Peter 2:9)

So, I’ll add my tie to the little metaphoric nativity scene I’m building.

It’s not as meaningful as priestly clothing.  Or as spectacular as Christmas lights on a December night.  But it’s a good reminder of the new identity the Savior purchased for me.

Gracious Father, use the lights and festive clothes of this season to remind us of the greater glories – the beauty of your holiness, shared with us, and the great redemptive work of your Son.  By your Spirit, help us to put on the new identity you have laid out for us to wear.

Reader: Do you have a Christmas tradition that includes an article of clothing?  Tell me about it.

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Bruce Van Patter

As a freelance illustrator, graphic recorder, and author, Bruce is on a lifelong journey to delight in the handiwork of the Creator. And he’s always ready for fellow travelers.