The opening lines of this reading speak clearly to my heart. Jesus reads these verses aloud in the synagogue after his wilderness temptations; they set the tone for his ministry. They’ve been central to the mission of many faith communities of which I’ve been a part. The passage offers a vision of what God will do, but the words also proclaim that God has anointed the author to play a role too.
Once we have opened our minds to God’s dream for the world—once we have refocused our dreams on what only God can do—then we discover that we also have a role. Isaiah reminds us that it’s not one or the other, dreaming or doing. Joy comes from the deep belief and trust that God will restore everything, but joy also comes from knowing that we join in with our own efforts, resources, and prayers. Joy comes from the knowledge that we can sow seeds of transformation and that God’s harvest will be more abundant than we can ever imagine.
Our engagement is essential even as we acknowledge that we cannot do it all. We may not be able to eradicate poverty any time soon, but we can ensure that more children feel loved and celebrated this Christmas. Although we cannot automatically end the preschool-to-prison pipeline that exists for young men of color, we can disrupt it by mentoring a boy or by advocating for educational access and quality in underserved communities. Although we cannot reverse the effects of decades of pollution on our earth, we can commit to recycling and walk instead of drive this week.
During this Advent, we are invited into the joy of the triune God by joining in the work of creation and restoration.
God, give me confidence in your promise of restoration, and help me see my role in your kingdom work of mending the world. Amen.
In Isaiah 61, the Anointed One declares a message of liberation. Justice, righteousness, and praise will blossom as new shoots of growth in the garden of the Lord. Psalm 126 remembers a time in the past when God’s mercy broke forth in an unparalleled manner. The character of the community and of the individual members will be transformed. The First Thessalonians text voices a yearning for the “coming of our Lord Jesus Christ,” yet the promise of the Second Advent has kindled great hope and gladness in the heart of the Christian community. The reading from the Gospel of John also raises the issue of the mood of expectancy that characterizes the period of time between promise and fulfillment.
• Read Isaiah 61:1-4, 8-11. If “the spirit of the Lord GOD is upon” you, what does that mean for the way you live day by day?
• Read Psalm 126. Have you experienced joy in a time of brokenness? How do you understand the seeming contradictions?
• Read 1 Thessalonians 5:16-24. Which of the disciplines Paul speaks of in verses 16-22 do you faithfully practice? Which might you cultivate further?
• Read John 1:6-8, 19-28. John not only knows his role; he knows who he is not: the Messiah. In this time of Advent waiting, consider who you are not. How does that consideration simplify your life? What may you release?
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