Say Yes to the Dress

Isaiah 61:1-4, 8-11
Isaiah 40:1-11

TLC does a bit of fluff called “Say Yes to the Dress.” It shows brides arguing with their mothers as they choose a dress for her to wear for three hours on one day and costs — well, if you have to ask the price you’re not really putting yourself into their demographic. It’s Queen for the Day, remade for today’s cable channel surfer, minus the backstory of how miserable the woman’s life was before this moment and how much she needs to feel special for an hour. My hatred of Say Yes…  may be why Isaiah 62:10 popped out a me this week. The bridal dress is cultural shorthand for the way certain transitional moments can be riveting. The bride focuses on buying the right dress, because when she wears it next, her life will take a radical turn into the unknown. Isaiah describes the salvation we receive from the coming messiah:


I will greatly rejoice in the LORD, my whole being shall exult in my God; for he has clothed me with the garments of salvation, he has covered me with the robe of righteousness, as a bridegroom decks himself with a garland, and as a bride adorns herself with her jewels.


We have a hard time reading this without wincing at the cost of a modern wedding. Perhaps we have forgotten the backstory of the second half of Isaiah. People are in exile. They are facing cultural extinction in Babylon. They have no hope. They grieve as their children leave the faith and stop practicing the rituals and morality that underpins Jewish life. When suddenly, there comes a message of salvation:


Comfort, O comfort my people, says your God… A voice crying in the wilderness, prepare the way of the LORD, make straight in the desert a highway for our God. (40:1-3)


These people in their poverty have been given the opportunity to pick out an expensive bridal dress and wear it before God and experience the transforming power of his salvation. For them, the miracle of being able to cross the desert and return home is like a wedding. It is costly, sure to create family turmoil, and filled with all the uncertainty major change brings, but it is also pure joy. 


We can marvel at how this older generation of Israel, living in Babylon before Zillow or GPS, said yes to the dress of God’s salvation. It involved great hardship for them, but they accepted it with joy. 


So, there are two lessons to be learned. The first is that modern materialism and the accompanying unwillingness to hear the stories of those in poverty, often gives us amnesia about the deep significance of our richest symbols, such as, the special dress, a golden ring, a meal of reconciliation (fatted calf), etc. Second, is that salvation is at hand and we may be saying No.

We dress in special ways in order to see ourselves differently
Advent 3