Here is my servant, whom I uphold, my chosen, in whom my soul delights; I have put my spirit upon him; he will bring forth justice to the nations. He will not cry or lift up his voice, or make it heard in the street; a bruised reed he will not break, and a dimly burning wick he will not quench; he will faithfully bring forth justice.
…See, the former things have come to pass, and new things I now declare; before they spring forth, I tell you of them. From Isaiah 42
Here in Kentucky, January has come beautiful and bright. But December was another story. It certainly wasn’t our snowiest on record, but you couldn’t have convinced us of that. Every few days, it seemed, we had some kind of frozen precipitation that had to be shoveled, salted, and swept. Days were mostly gray, and the temps were well below normal. Most people will tell you they can put up with the snow, but the freezing rain is a different story. Lovely though it is, ice is scary, heavy and dangerous. It breaks trees and power lines, and makes even a short walk to the mailbox either outright funny or downright frightening.
Gardeners start to pay attention this time of year to winter weather, wondering how it will play out in the spring. A blanket of snow can actually protect roots from super cold nights, but ice can permanently damage shrubs, tender trees, perennials. The problem is, there is no way to know for sure now what sort of lasting problems, if any, will result. One must just wait.
I also know a lot of people who felt roughly treated by life at the end of 2010, and are entering a new year with some mixture of hope and trepidation. Bruised by the economy, chilled by frozen relationships, weighed down by anxiety, these bright days of sunshine at the cusp of a new year may lift their spirits. What they hope, more than anything, is that they will come out on the other side of winter with some promise of better tomorrows. Change, for the better.
Isaiah wrote about hope in one who would come to bring justice and change, but not in the expected manner of warfare. This one would not come in a show of power, wielding sword to crush whatever and whoever was in the way. No, change would come in gentleness, so that already bruised reeds would not be broken and the dimly burning wick of nearly-dead hope would not be extinguished. Isaiah spoke of justice to his own readers, but Christians through the ages have read these words and also seen how Jesus lived them out hundreds of years later.
This morning, as I finish this blog, the weather has turned gray again and there is a light dusting of snow on the ground. The long-range forecast for Central Kentucky is a mixture of light snow, cloudy and sunny days. Certainly, we’ll have more bad weather, perhaps even damaging ice storms. But spring, distant though it is, will finally arrive and bring with it the regeneration of earth and plant life.
No matter how long our winter of bad mood, sickness, depression and anxiety, there is one who treats us with gentleness even as change is coming, who will not extinguish the dimly burning wicks of our hope and faith, who will not break the bruised reeds of our spirits.
In the meantime, we have hope to keep us warm.