Candle Lighter: “The Light of the world is coming!” (As you light the third (pink) Advent candle. A candle of joy!)
Reader: “The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is upon me,”
Response: “for the Lord has anointed me to bring good news to the poor.”
Scripture: Isaiah 61:1-4, 8-11
The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is upon me,
for the Lord has anointed me
to bring good news to the poor.
He has sent me to comfort the brokenhearted
and to proclaim that captives will be released
and prisoners will be freed.
He has sent me to tell those who mourn
that the time of the Lord’s favor has come,
and with it, the day of God’s anger against their enemies.
To all who mourn in Israel,
he will give a crown of beauty for ashes,
a joyous blessing instead of mourning,
festive praise instead of despair.
In their righteousness, they will be like great oaks
that the Lord has planted for his own glory.
They will rebuild the ancient ruins,
repairing cities destroyed long ago.
They will revive them,
though they have been deserted for many generations.
“For I, the Lord, love justice.
I hate robbery and wrongdoing.
I will faithfully reward my people for their suffering
and make an everlasting covenant with them.
Their descendants will be recognized
and honored among the nations.
Everyone will realize that they are a people
the Lord has blessed.”
I am overwhelmed with joy in the Lord my God!
For he has dressed me with the clothing of salvation
and draped me in a robe of righteousness.
I am like a bridegroom dressed for his wedding
or a bride with her jewels.
The Sovereign Lord will show his justice to the nations of the world.
Everyone will praise him!
His righteousness will be like a garden in early spring,
with plants springing up everywhere.
Reader: “The word of the Lord,”
Response: “Thanks be to God.”
You’ll recall Jesus quoting this passage in Luke’s gospel (4:18). It was the beginning of his public ministry and he had just finished a forty day fast only to be tempted by the devil. He traveled from Jerusalem back to the region of Galilee where he began to teach in the synagogues from town to town. His fame spread for he taught with unusual authority. So when he came to his hometown, Nazareth, he went to the synagogue on the Sabbath as was his usual custom. (Scripture reading was a major and significant part of Jewish worship. In fact, there was a lectionary, a set schedule of readings. For example, the Torah was mapped out on a three year cycle. In Jesus’ case, the reading was from Isaiah 61.) Jesus stood up to read (the usual custom). When he finished, he sat down. Every Jew knew that this passage was a direct reference to the long-awaited Messiah.
The Septuagint, the Greek translation of the First Testament, adds the phrase “and the blind will see” to the phrase “and the prisoners will be freed.” When John the Baptist was in prison and sent a message to Jesus asking if he truly was the Messiah, Jesus again referred to this passage (Lk.7:22-23) as his answer. The Jews had been waiting 400 years since the last prophet and a 1,000 years since King David waiting and looking for the Messiah. Now the local boy, one of the sons of Mary and (assumedly) Joseph named Jesus, (they had at least six other children), claimed to be the long-awaited Messiah! He had grown up among them. They knew him as a teenager! The Nazarites didn’t go for it, thought he was blaspheming, and sought to kill him.
Isaiah writes that Israel, which has been under great oppression, will be restored. God will bring justice and peace and blessing to his people. This chapter began with the Sovereign Lord proclaiming deliverance and concludes with the Sovereign Lord showing justice to the nations with everyone rejoicing and praising the goodness of our God.
In the days in which we live, this kind of world may seem far-fetched, unreal, out of reach, . . . impossible. That was the same reaction of the Nazarites when Jesus sat down and said, “The Scripture you just heard has been fulfilled this very day!” Because of the Nazarites’ preconceived ideas and historical knowledge, they were not able to move out of their own mindset and recognize the Savior of the world. Likewise, sometimes we become so familiar with a situation or relationship, that we fail to see its deeper significance―like a spouse, or a child, a friend, or God working in our very midst! We actually miss the eternal value right before our eyes.
Music: ““Glory to God In the Highest” Messiah
Prayer: O God, quicken to life every power within me, that I may lay hold on eternal things. Open my eyes that I may see; give me acute spiritual perception; enable me to taste Thee and know that Thou art good. Make heaven more real to me than any earthly thing has ever been. Amen. ―AW Tozer, The Pursuit of God, p.59