Expecting Christmas: Reflections from Isaiah 61:1-2

We’ve been getting ready for Christmas by reflecting on the words of Isaiah in the Old Testament. Why there? Why not just read about baby Jesus getting born?

The Old Testament reads like a story yearning for an ending.

In the best stories, the endings are inevitable, but not predictable.

After reading the Old Testament and the New Testament, Jesus seems inevitable — of course God would do that; of course God would be like that.

But after reading the Old Testament alone, Jesus was not predictable — there were Jews then and there are Jews today who cannot accept Christ as the Messiah.

However, we cannot fully understand the Old Testament without Jesus,

and we cannot fully understand Jesus without the Old Testament.

Jesus says, “Do not think that I have come to abolish the law or the prophets; I have come not to abolish but to fulfill.” (Matthew 5:17)

Today we read Isaiah 61:1-2 “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.”

Isaiah 35:5-6 “Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened, and the ears of the deaf unstopped; then the lame shall leap like a deer, and the tongue of the speechless sing for joy.”

Luke 4:16-19 “When he came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up, he went to the synagogue on the sabbath day, as was his custom. He stood up to read, and the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was given to him. He unrolled the scroll and found the place where it was written: “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”

Matthew 11:4-5 Then Jesus says, “Go and tell John what you hear and see: the blind receive their sight, the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the poor have good news brought to them.”

The Lord gives good news to the poor. Does that mean he has no good news to the poor? Of course not. The Lord wants his light to shine in every home. But God is especially attracted to weakness. He is attracted to the poor, the brokenhearted, the incarcerated, the grieving, the blind, the lame, the deaf. That does not mean he is repelled by strength, by wellness.

There are people you meet who have a special place in their hearts for animal shelters, or food pantries, or after-school programs. It’s not that they dislike everyone else; it’s that they know who needs them.

God is drawn to those who need him.

God is drawn to the poor because he can give comfort.

brokenhearted                      joy

incarcerated                          freedom

grieving                                  resurrection hope.

God is drawn to those who need him.

Do you need him?

In this world, the powerful reveal their power by their distance from people.

How many doors and secretaries do you have to go through to get near the CEO?

How many phone calls and people do you have to go through to get near a celebrity?

How many donors and Secret Service agents do you have to go through to get near the President?

God’s power is not revealed by his distance from people, but by his nearness to them.

When Jesus comes,

he comes near,

he comes near to those who need him,

he comes to bring Christmas to everyone,

and when he comes near

the poor are comforted,

the brokenhearted become joyful,

the incarcerated experience freedom,

the grieving have hope,

the blind see,

the lame leap,

and the deaf hear.

So the end of the story is inevitable;

the end of the Bible is inevitable.

After all the pain and all the suffering,

after sin and ignorance,

after wars and violence,

after bloodshed and pain,

after life on earth is over,

God comes near again:

The Bible ends, “The home of God is among mortals. He will dwell with them as their God; they will be his peoples, and God himself will be with them; he will wipe every tear from their eyes. Death will be no more; mourning and crying and pain will be no more, for the first things have passed away.” (Revelation 21:3-4)