Isaiah 61:1-11 is reading for the 3rd Sunday in Advent for the Narrative Lectionary.
Have you paid attention to the news lately? Do you know what’s going on?
THE END OF THE WORLD IS NEAR!
Yup, it’s December 21st. If you need some proof, you can click here. You only have a week or so left, which may be good news or bad news depending on how you look at it….
Let me just say that I AM NOT preparing for the end of the world. One, I don’t place a lot of faith Mayan calendars and ancient predictions. Not my thing. But, if you are paying attention to the news, to what people have been talking about and how they are responding to it, it does seem like the end of something is near.
– The impending “fiscal cliff.” The end of financial security, back into an economic recession.
– The government situation in Egypt. The end of democracy for those in the Middle East.
– Unemployment in our country. For many, the end of a way of life, and for many, an end of their self-value and worth, tied up in what they do.
– The holiday season. You got your shopping done; your parties planned? You’re running out of time! The end is near! (Which reminds me, I haven’t even begun to start shopping yet)
Perhaps you don’t see it, but I think under the surface, there is a sense of “the end” in our lives and world. A sense of fear. A sense of dread. A sense of anxiety. A sense of hopelessness. And in the midst of feeling “the end” looming, we all are searching for answers and finding solutions on how to deal with it.
In response to a poor economy & the devastation caused by Hurricane Sandy, kids are searching for answers…. from Santa.
In response to the stress of the holidays and of life, people – church people – are seizing the opportunity to offer advice – lists of “to do’s” to make it through the holidays. Some take matters into their own hands, and find ways to cope.
We’re all searching for answers…a piece of “good news” that will stave off, or at least diminish, the feeling of “the end” we all sense coming down on us at some level. And honestly, most of us are willing to listen to just about anyone who might bringing such “good news”: politicians, friends, experts, friends, media, and even the church and its leaders. I think that’s pretty honest and normal. But, how well are those voices, and their answers relieving your fear and dread? How well are they creating a sense of peace and hope? How are these voices and their answers, speaking a word of “good news” into our lives..good news that matters, makes a difference?”
The prophet in Isaiah speaks, “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…”
Often times, this passage gets interpreted to mean simply a political/social reform – the lowest and marginalized of society will be lifted up and made powerful by God. God cares and acts for the marginalized and lowly. And I certainly think that message is in there…..but it’s only a part of what God intends. What God announces as “good news” is so much greater and complete – so much beyond what we ourselves could ever imagine. God’s proclamation of good news to us is a promise that God will act and God alone will bring a new way of life, of living, of relating – for all people. What God promises…..is a completely new beginning.
Yet it’s also a mystery as to how that will happen. Just as no Mayan calendar or ancient prediction can tell us when God will act, the proclamation of the prophet in Isaiah 61 makes no promise of when God will act either. What it does assert that God will act, and that God’s action will make a difference in the way never before seen – it will bring a complete hope. A total peace. A lasting comfort and joy.
That is the message of Advent. The good news God offers is the promise a new beginning: a beginning that begins in the birth of the newborn baby Jesus into a chaotic world. Not something that will simply stave off or lessen the impact of an impending “end;” but a completely new beginning. A beginning that begins and ends with God; a life begun and sustained in the grace, love, peace and justice that we all yearn for, and only God alone can provide.
Maybe among the many voices and messages offering “good news” in a world fearing an impending ending, it’s God’s turn to speak. This Advent season, the world is about to turn, and God is about to turn it. For this is God’s proclamation of good news to us today and everyday: In Jesus Christ, Emmanuel, “The Beginning is near.” A beginning of complete hope, peace, love, justice, and abundant life for all.
And perhaps, as people of God who place faith and trust in this good news, maybe we are “anointed”as well – appointed and called to witness and share this good news with the world, a world that needs to know such a new beginning – a beginning from God, is near. Amen.