Isaiah 61:1-11

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 the day of vengeance of our God;
            to comfort all who mourn;
            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.
 
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.
Strangers shall stand and feed your flocks,
            foreigners shall till your land and dress your vines;
but you shall be called priests of the LORD,
            you shall be named ministers of our God;
            you shall enjoy the wealth of the nations, and in their riches you shall glory.
 
Because their shame was double, and dishonor was proclaimed as their lot,
            therefore they shall possess a double portion; everlasting joy shall be theirs.
 
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.
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.
 
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.
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.

             The title given to this text in the NIV is “The Year of the Lord’s Favor.”  It begins with Isaiah speaking of his calling and beckons to us to take it personally.  I read this and consider what God seems to have anointed or called me to be and to do. 

            There were so many years in my adult life in which I had absolutely no clue as to a personal sense of purpose or calling.  Many of us might identify with living in a state of the “wandering generality.”  I’ve lived through 3 layoffs, divorce, and many other struggles.  I understand what it means to live without hope.

            Isaiah speaks to those who grieve in Zion, those who have lost their entire country, and those who struggle with losing faith in the One who had promised they would be a nation yet had been defeated by invading armies.  We are unable to make the claim of faith that pronounces a personal sense of call or purpose when we live without hope.  Purpose is birthed out of our hope for a future.  Hope stems from our faith that somehow my personal future is important to God and that I can legitimately maintain a positive sense of expectancy.

            In the face of a struggling economy, shootings in our schools, and blossoming reports of H1N1 infection, where is our hope?  If Isaiah and the Hebrew people could speak of renewal, rebuilding, restoration, and God’s blessings in the face of destruction, how can we not as well?

            The season of Advent is a time of preparation and hope. We journey toward Christmas, the birth of Light into darkness. Surely, with our faith in place and a positive sense of expectancy, we can say that we are journeying into the year of the Lord’s favor.

Creating God of life and light,

spark fervor within my heart

to let your Spirit manifest purpose in my life.

Propel me forward to accomplish

the purpose you have for me,

bring your Spirit to those in my community,

and overcome negative feelings.

 

Rev. Mark Mills

Moundsville – First Christian Church

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