Luke 4:18 reminds us of the prophetic words of Isaiah who spoke these familiar words; words Jesus choose to speak for his first sermon in the synagogue in his hometown of Nazareth: 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; to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor, and comfort all who mourn. ~~~Isaiah 61:1
Isaiah spoke a word of hope; and he was calling the Hebrew people to live life in a desperate time in their history, during the 8th century BC, when facing captivity and exile by the Babylonian Empire; and in those desperate times, he called them to live by a different standard. Isaiah went on to say in Chapter 61:1-4: Provide for those who mourn give them a garland instead of ashes, give them the oil of joy instead of mourning, and they shall build up the ancient ruins, they shall raise up the former devastations; they shall repair the ruined cities, from the devastations of many generations.
To read Isaiah is like reading the front page of Newspapers today. Things are bad, yet this prophet speaks to us, even today, in our desperate times and says: I bring Good news! Good news for the oppressed, good news for the brokenhearted, good news to captives and prisoners, good news to those who mourn. And Isaiah tells us to give people garlands to decorate, oil to anoint themselves with joy, and festive clothes to dress up in. Seriously?! Decorations are nice and all, but they hardly serve to make things better. And by doing that can it be counted on to change the world? Isaiah is saying Yes!—he is saying decorate any way!
Because when we decorate our homes and our churches, we are not saying that we are unaware of difficulties, we are not saying that we are oblivious to bad news. Rather we are saying that we choose to live; we choose to live the good news; we choose to live by HOPE and not despair; we choose to live by LOVE and not by hate; we choose to live with JOY in our hearts, and not by division, fear, and lies; and we choose to live the PEACE of Christ with ourselves and one another. The Angels said it on that first Christmas: “Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth Peace among those whom God favors!” ~Luke 2:14 NRSV. This is the Good News!
Prayer for Advent (adapted from Joyce Rupp, O.S.M.): God of Emmanuel, I will risk saying a kind word or doing a good deed for the sake of your love. Amen.
Patrick D., Morgan Hill United Methodist Church