The spirit of the Lord God is upon me,
because the Lord has anointed me;
he has sent me to bring good news to the oppressed,
to bind up the brokenhearted,
to proclaim liberty to the captives,
and release to the prisoners;
2 to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor,
and the day of vengeance of our God;
to comfort all who mourn;
3 to provide for those who mourn in Zion—
to give them a garland instead of ashes,
the oil of gladness instead of mourning,
the mantle of praise instead of a faint spirit.
They will be called oaks of righteousness,
the planting of the Lord, to display his glory.
4 They shall build up the ancient ruins,
they shall raise up the former devastations;
they shall repair the ruined cities,
the devastations of many generations.
8 For I the Lord love justice,
I hate robbery and wrongdoing;
I will faithfully give them their recompense,
and I will make an everlasting covenant with them.
9 Their descendants shall be known among the nations,
and their offspring among the peoples;
all who see them shall acknowledge
that they are a people whom the Lord has blessed.
10 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.
11 For as the earth brings forth its shoots,
and as a garden causes what is sown in it to spring up,
so the Lord God will cause righteousness and praise
to spring up before all the nations.
Isaiah 61: 1-4, 8-11
I must admit that I did not know anything about the significance of season of Advent growing up as a young person in Los Angeles. Although I attended a Presbyterian Church from a young age, my mind was definitely not focused on waiting for the birth of the baby Jesus but on what gifts were going to have my name on them underneath the Christmas tree when I awoke that particular morning. I remembered the years when I saw something I really wanted in the months prior to Christmas and would ask my mother if I could have that particular item. Instead of buying the item right there on the spot, she would make a promise that “Santa” would bring it early on Christmas morning. From that time until Christmas day came, I was waiting in expectation for that particular gift to be underneath the tree. Some years what was promised was there and I was overjoyed that the promise was kept. Other years I would rush downstairs and get to the Christmas tree to find that what I asked for was not there. It was at those times I felt as if what I waited for was not promised and I was highly disappointed.
As we approach the Advent and Christmas season, believers in Christ are looking forward to the promise of the birth of Jesus, who will bring us peace and restore the Kingdom of God to the world. However it seems as if we are waiting in vain for this promise to arrive. Our world has undergone much trouble and distress. Refugees from Syria are leaving their homeland which is torn by strife and conflict to Europe and other places to find a better life. Civil unrest from the deaths of African-American men in cities such as Ferguson, Missouri and Baltimore, Maryland is causing tensions not only in local communities but also with law enforcement. School shootings continue to happen all across the nation, which is causing parents and administrators wondering how to keep their children safe. We are heading into an election season in which we are beginning to be inundated with negative press. In a season where we are buying presents, attending holiday gatherings and singing Christmas songs with an attitude of cheerfulness there is some doubt that the promised birth of Jesus can really change anything.
In this passage the prophet Isaiah was writing to a community who had returned home from a period of exile. Although it was a time of joy and relief, life was not going to be easy. They needed to hear words of assurance that would give them hope. Isaiah provides them hope with the following words –
The spirit of the Lord God is upon me, because the Lord has anointed me; he has sent me to bring good news to the oppressed, to bind up the broken-hearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives and release to the prisoners, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor, and the day of vengeance of our God; to comfort all who mourn.
The hope that Isaiah spoke to the Israelites is the same hope that we need to hear today. Despite all what is wrong with the world we are waiting for the promise of the birth of the Christ Child. He is the one who will bring peace to the nations, free those who are oppressed, and proclaim the name of the Lord in all the earth.
As you wait for that particular promised gift that you are expecting to see under the Christmas tree, be assured that the promise of the birth of Jesus, the Savior of the world is coming. You will not be disappointed!
A prayer for this day:
O Lord, help us to be patient and wait for the promise of the birth of your son and our Savior, Jesus, into the world, who will bring us peace. Amen.
Rev. Dr. Byron A. Wade (MA, 1994)
Davie Street Presbyterian Church