Will anybody know?

November 24th, 2020

Isaiah 61:1-4, 8-11

This incredible passage of Scripture from Isaiah is a third part of the prophecy within Isaiah. A disciple of Deutero-Isaiah possibly wrote this third portion. Certainly the theme is the same. Jesus used part of this passage to identify what he seeks to do in his ministry. It is an appropriate text for the Advent season as it seeks to define the place and role of this restored community of Jews in Jerusalem to the world. As we move to the birth of God’s son into our own world, isn’t it appropriate to ask ourselves what role will this event have in our life?

A reference in this text reflects that the prophet is anointing by God to carry out his calling from God. Elsewhere in the Old Testament, this kind of anointing is usually reserved for kings. By using powerful imagery this prophet takes on God’s authority. The author obviously wants readers to understand where his message has its source. This passage shifts the role and responsibility of God’s people. Written in a postexilic time frame, the Jews have now been granted their return to the promised land. They have been restored as God’s chosen people. This restoration will take on a new and different role. The salvation they have experienced firsthand is to be now a salvation that they share with all people, everywhere. The restoration of Jerusalem has a purpose. The reason behind this restoration lies in the hope that all nations will come to acknowledge that God has blessed Jerusalem. God seeks to pledge God’s blessing not only on the city but also on all who dwell within it. We discover the power of this passage as God seeks not only to restore and rebuild, but also to illustrate what such blessing is to the entire world.

As the church moves toward Bethlehem, it is no surprise that God seeks to use us in this redemptive event. We describe what blessing and restoration does in the lives of people. Paul is right in Romans 8 when he writes about God working for good in the world with those who love God and with those who are called according to God’s purpose. Advent is filled with this sense that God is behind, in, through, over, above, under, all over this great drama unfolding before us. God is intentional as this is the focus of Advent 3. Isaiah has been anointed by none other than the Lord.

As the Hebrews needed to be reminded of their response to restoration so, too, we followers of Christ need reminding. Responsibility goes with salvation. Our experience cannot simply be reduced to a day and place. Such an experience demands a continual response. We seek to be faithful to what restoration means and how it defines us each moment we live. We too are called to become a living illustration of what it means to be blessed and restored by God. Perhaps then all may see and come to such blessing and restoration.

When the tragic events of 9/11 happened we could not believe it was happening on our soil. After that dark and yet heroic day, we began to rally as a nation to one another. We realized how much we needed one another as a nation and as a community. Such events, even tragic ones, shape us and define us individually and collectively. Such was the case of the restoration of the Jews to Jerusalem. God through the prophet wants the people to understand that this is a defining moment in their lives both individually and collectively. The events of restoration are a turning point for them as God seeks to use God’s work in history. God molds who people are and who people become.

In preparation and waiting may we come to realize and to answer for ourselves how this birth at Bethlehem might shape and mold us. May its power claim us and transform us. Maybe this Christmas we will be open to what it is God is seeking to do in us. Could it be that this Christmas God wants to know what difference this birth make to us? Will God be able to tell the difference? As important, will anybody else?

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