Isaiah 61:1-4, 8-11
1The 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; 2to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor, and the day of vengeance of our God; to comfort all who mourn; 3to 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. 4They shall build up the ancient ruins, they shall raise up the former devastations; they shall repair the ruined cities, the devastations of many generations.
8For 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. 9Their 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. 10I 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. 11For 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.
Short explanation again of how Hebrew bible prophets technically spoke against the ruling status quo – political, economic, social, religious. Prophets also called people to repentance, to turning around and change the style and direction of their lives. But more than anything, prophecy announced God doing a new thing, the inbreaking of the reign of heaven, resurrection from the dead! This week's particular proclamation is exactly that: urban rebirth; rebuilding cities from ruins and blight and devastation; reversing, turning upside down, the community's sorrow, grief, lack of initiative. Resonating with the universalism we find throughout the entire book of Isaiah, these words affirm God does all this for everyone, everywhere!
Verse 11 in the Hebrew uses the word sprout three times: earth sprouts; garden sprouts; righteousness sprouts.
Interesting how this passage uses three different words for God/Lord: Yahweh; Adonai; Elohim
I had so many notes and ideas about this amazing passage from 3rd Isaiah, who wrote for the people who'd returned from exile in Babylon and also for the people who never left Jerusalem, but had stayed behind. However, we can't do everything every week or any week, so at least I pointed out how in Luke's gospel, Jesus' reading and commenting in the synagogue on these promises via Isaiah opened Jesus' public ministry.
14Then Jesus, filled with the power of the Spirit, returned to Galilee, and a report about him spread through all the surrounding country. 15He began to teach in their synagogues and was praised by everyone. 16When 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, 17and the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was given to him. He unrolled the scroll and found the place where it was written: 18"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, 19to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor." 20And he rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the attendant, and sat down. The eyes of all in the synagogue were fixed on him. 21Then he began to say to them, "Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing."
As I'd planned, we took time to discuss our most memorable and meaningful advent and Christmas memories and traditions. I mentioned Blue Christmas again, because this time of year is unhappy, difficult, and challenging for many people who hardly can wait until the media and local blitz of carols, decorations, and festivities ends.
Stayed tuned for next week, Advent 4, and the Magnificat from Jesus' mother Mary / Miriam!