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Lenten Devotions from Fourth Presbyterian Church

Thursday, December 17, 2020  

Today’s Scripture Reading  | Isaiah 61:1–4, 8–11

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. 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. (NRSV)

This passage of scripture is very familiar to me because I played bass guitar for my youth group worship band at the evangelical church I grew up in. And this passage makes up the backbone of one of the songs that my buddies and I played most often. I simply can’t read this without that tune playing in my head, years later!

As with most of my favorite worship songs from back in the day, this song has a slow build, setting you up for a powerful chorus and the line “This is the year of the favor of the Lord!” It hits quite a bit differently now. Instead of being drawn to the chorus, I’m drawn to the verses. God has sent you to the poor. To bind up the broken-hearted. To comfort all who mourn. To provide for those who grieve.

These words stick with me, especially this year, which does not feel like a year of favor. The pain and injustice and grief in this world is overwhelming. But maybe that makes Advent more impactful this year. It’s a reminder of the promise of Emmanuel, God with us. That God’s promise does not change or fade, and God will care for us, no matter what is happening in this world.

But beyond that, this scripture is a reminder that we’re called to create God’s kingdom on earth. We are called to proclaim justice and love and liberty just as Isaiah was. It is a reminder that we are a community, bound to each other to build each other up and proclaim God’s love to each other and to the world.

Lord, may your Spirit be upon me, to bring good news to the oppressed, to bring freedom to the captives, to comfort those who mourn. Amen.

Written by Jared Light, Member of Fourth Presbyterian Church

Reflection and prayer © Fourth Presbyterian Church

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