The Spirit of the Lord GOD is upon me; because the LORD hath anointed me to preach good tidings unto the meek; he hath sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to them that are bound; To proclaim the acceptable year of the LORD, and the day of vengeance of our God; to comfort all that mourn; To appoint unto them that mourn in Zion, to give unto them beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness; that they might be called trees of righteousness, the planting of the LORD, that he might be glorified. And they shall build the old wastes, they shall raise up the former desolations, and they shall repair the waste cities, the desolations of many generations.
For I the LORD love judgment, I hate robbery for burnt offering; and I will direct their work in truth, and I will make an everlasting covenant with them. And their seed shall be known among the Gentiles, and their offspring among the people: all that see them shall acknowledge them, that they are the seed which the LORD hath blessed. I will greatly rejoice in the LORD, my soul shall be joyful in my God; for he hath clothed me with the garments of salvation, he hath covered me with the robe of righteousness, as a bridegroom decketh himself with ornaments, and as a bride adorneth herself with her jewels. For as the earth bringeth forth her bud, and as the garden causeth the things that are sown in it to spring forth; so the Lord GOD will cause righteousness and praise to spring forth before all the nations.
Isaiah 61:1-4,8-1 (KJV)
At the beginning of His earthly ministry, as recorded in the fourth chapter of Luke’s Gospel, Jesus boldly declared his mission, drawing on the words of the prophet Isaiah, “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me…” In his declaration, Jesus cites the impetus for His work. Like the prophet, Jesus is clear that His motivation and power are a direct result of the presence of the Holy Spirit moving in His life. Sadly, during this Advent and Christmas season, too many people—including some in the church—are being guided by the spirits of materialism and consumerism. In His declaration, Jesus also explains the nature of His work—to preach good news, to free people from broken heartedness, captivity, and bondage, and to unleash joy that has no bounds in the lives of God’s people. On the surface, this season has the appearance of freedom and joy—Miracle on 34th Street on the television, bright lights on Christmas tress, and gifts overflowing. However, for many it is a season when depression and loneliness strike, sadness at the thought of a loved ones passing creeps in, and anxieties about skyrocketing credit card balances abound.
As we prepare to celebrate the coming of the Christ child, and continue to our work in the Kingdom of God, I wonder if we could avail ourselves to be guided solely by the Spirit of the Lord and if our work would be about the inherently liberating power of the Gospel? Perhaps then we would experience God causing “righteousness and praise to spring forth before all the nations.”
(c) Donna Olivia Owusu-Ansah, written for Bethesda Baptist Church of New Rochelle, Advent Meditation Book 2011