Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Preparing for Sunday, Dec. 21st

On this fourth and final Sunday of Advent, we will light a candle and remember Mary’s words, “Let it be with me according to your will.” Our scripture lesson is actually the Old Testament lesson from the third Sunday of Advent: Isaiah 61:1-4, 8-11. Let’s read the entire chapter:
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; 2 to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor, and the day of vengeance of our God; to comfort all who mourn; 3 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.
4 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. 5 Strangers shall stand and feed your flocks, foreigners shall till your land and dress your vines; 6 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. 7 Because their shame was double, and dishonor was proclaimed as their lot, therefore they shall possess a double portion; everlasting joy shall be theirs. 8 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. 9 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.
10 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. 11 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.
• This chapter begins with familiar words. These are the words that Jesus chooses to read for his first sermon in Capernaum. I often think of them as Jesus’ mission statement. The words as reported in Luke 4: 18-19 are slightly different and he stops short of declaring the day of God’s vengeance:
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, 19 to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor."

During Advent we remember not only that Jesus came to earth but why Jesus came. What does this mission statement tell us about the reason Jesus came?
o What does it indicate Jesus came to save us from?
o Why do you think Jesus stopped his reading before proclaiming the day of vengeance?

Scholars point out that this passage not only applies to a person—the anointed one (the Hebrew for anointed is mashach from which we get the word Messiah) as well as to the community of the anointed one. As Christians, we recognize Jesus’ mission in this passage which means that as Christ’s body here on earth, this is our mission too.
o In what ways do you see Jesus in this passage?
o In what ways do you see yourself in this passage?
 In what ways do you identify with his call, in your life today?
o In what ways do you see our congregation in this passage?
 In what ways do we live this call out in our ministry?
 In what ways do we fall short?

According to the prophet, God’s glory is revealed to the world as they look at the community of faith. People of the covenant should display God’s splendor and are called to proclaim (preach!) the good news (evangel or evangelism!). Given the message of this passage, how can we keep Christ in Christmas for the world?

Finally, who are the oppressed, brokenhearted, captives, prisoners, and those who mourn in our community? How do we proclaim the good news of Christ’s birth to them?
Christmas is approaching fast! Is your heart prepared to welcome Christ?

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