The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is on me,
because the Lord has anointed me
to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted,
to proclaim freedom for the captives
and release from darkness for the prisoners,
to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor
and the day of vengeance of our God,
to comfort all who mourn,
and provide for those who grieve in Zion—
to bestow on them a crown of beauty
instead of ashes,
the oil of joy
instead of mourning,
and a garment of praise
instead of a spirit of despair.
They will be called oaks of righteousness,
a planting of the Lord
for the display of his splendor. (Isaiah 61:1-3)
This hardly seems like a Christmas scripture. It doesn’t mention baby Jesus, angels, shepherds or a stable. There are no magi bringing extravagant gifts to a pheasant family after a star led them to their child. Not much magic at all, really. Yet it’s the passage I can’t get out of my mind or my heart this month. It is the one that made me burst into song on our way to church on Christmas Eve. It’s why I have hope and why I am celebrating today.
I have a tendency to see the pain and brokenness in the world. I don’t expect much from people, because I know they’re going to screw up. I am not surprised to discover a friend has been abused because I’ve seen it all before. My mom thinks I’m cynical. I prefer the word realistic.
I just read that paragraph and I sound hard. The truth is, I’m heartbroken. I look at my kids, my son who giggles when I’m tickling the baby. Ha! My baby who is ecstatic because he’s playing with half of an Easter egg and a ball. They love life and I don’t want them to hurt. I don’t want them to feel pain. After experiencing deep depression and hopelessness in my life, I am afraid for anyone to spiral that low. My heart breaks when I watch the news and once more a loved one was lost because of the sin and carelessness of another. I am frustrated and angry because of the poverty in a world that has so much wealth.
I fear for our safety after the murders that seem to become more and more frequent across our country.
This world is not what it was meant to be.
When Jesus began his ministry, as he was teaching in the Synagogue, he opened the Scriptures to Isaiah 61 (above) and told everyone, “Today this Scripture is fulfilled.” (Luke 4:21) Scroll back up. Read it again.
Today, this Scripture is fulfilled.
Jesus came to heal us, to comfort us, to free us, and to bring us joy. Our hope in him is not just a hope for heaven, but a hope for life on earth. The life we long for and that we know should exist now. It’s all possible because of Christmas.
Today, I rejoice because of what God has done in my life. Because of the prayers He has answered and the power He has given us through Jesus. This year I have seen Him work in the lives of people I love and have prayed for for years. Addictions are being broken. Freedom is being found. Pain is being healed and joy is being discovered. Personally, I am experiencing peace and joy in the midst of my circumstances. In God’s strength and truth, I am fighting depression and low self-esteem – and winning.
As I celebrate Jesus’ first entrance into the world, I look forward to the day He returns in order to fully set things right. Until then, I trust Him to keep doing what He said He would do, bringing abundant life into our lives.