By: Emily Meeks
We couldn’t afford many Christmas decorations the first year of being married. We chose a small tree that fit on an IKEA bookshelf. For ornaments, we asked friends and family for a favorite scripture verse to write on small cards in colorful pens. Each day during that first December we would read one of the cards attached to the tree by a paper clip and remember that person with gratitude.
It wasn’t a surprise to me, my grandmother’s selection. On clips of newspaper articles or greeting cards, her handwriting often extended into the margins with Isaiah 52:7. She loved the images – mountains, peace, good news – of a God whose reign is bigger all else that entangles. The actual text in Isaiah references messengers who run from a battle to bring news of the outcome to those waiting.
Living in the Pacific Northwest, these words took new form for me with the Olympic and Cascade mountains in view on clear days. When I hike, and especially when I trail run, I am reminded of the importance of casting my vision both forward and upward to discover and share the beauty that unfolds without injury.
Isaiah 52:7 has been especially resonant this Advent as my grandmother nears the end of her life and struggles with the challenges of advanced dementia. She recently entered hospice, and I am grateful that I recently flew home to spend time with her.
I entered her room with quiet footsteps and sat down across a sliding tray with two picture frames. I said hello and hoped that she would know my voice while wearing a mask. She decided to call me Olivia. She couldn’t place “Seattle.” I described mountains, water – the Space Needle.
She seemed so far from home in her body and mind. I could see that she tried to make sense of it, to be removed from the frustrations of her mind. The frailty of each word and breath gave me pause.
I took a deep breath and pulled out my bible from my tote bag. I thumbed to Isaiah 52:7, reading slowly, clearly and loudly over her roommate’s television.
How beautiful on the mountains
are the feet of those who bring good news
I started to see it – a shift in her eyes.
who proclaim peace,
who bring good tidings,
who proclaim salvation,
An ease in her face. A soft recognition deep inside.
who say to Zion,
“Your God reigns!”
An upward curve of her lips. A smile. It wasn’t lasting but it was real.
In the days following, I listened in Education for Ministry (EFM), as someone chose Zecahariah’s Song for a theological reflection. They read the last verse in Luke 1:79 that describes guiding our feet into paths of peace. I offered Isaiah 52:7 as a text connection. The conversation began to connect to the promise of bringing good news in times of shadow and darkness.
I think of the sweetness of my grandmother’s smile when she recognized the images from Isaiah. I recall the years that my grandmother’s love for God has shone in my life, even though I didn’t always hear or receive it fully at the time. She believed strongly in scripture and the power of asking for wisdom before reading holy words. She prepared for her bible studies with intention and passion. She wanted me to know that God loved and cared for me deeply.
As we pull out our Christmas decorations this year, I pray that she will experience this good news in full.
Emily Meeks loves finding adventure and connection outside, especially while running, biking, hiking and kayaking. She attends and serves at Saint Mark’s Cathedral in Seattle.