Isaiah 61:1-8 (CEB)

61 The Lord God’s spirit is upon me,
because the Lord has anointed me.
He has sent me
to bring good news to the poor,
to bind up the brokenhearted,
to proclaim release for captives,
and liberation for prisoners,
to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor
and a day of vindication for our God,
to comfort all who mourn,
to provide for Zion’s mourners,
to give them a crown in place of ashes,
oil of joy in place of mourning,
a mantle of praise in place of discouragement.
They will be called Oaks of Righteousness,
planted by the Lord to glorify himself.
They will rebuild the ancient ruins;
they will restore formerly deserted places;
they will renew ruined cities,
places deserted in generations past.

Foreigners will stay and shepherd your sheep,
and strangers will be your farmers and vinedressers.
You will be called The Priests of the Lord;
Ministers of Our God, they will say about you.
You will feed on the wealth of nations,
and fattenyourself on their riches.
Instead of shame, their portion will be double;
instead of disgrace, they will rejoice over their share.
They will possess a double portion in their land;
everlasting joy will be theirs.
I, the Lord, love justice;
I hate robbery and dishonesty.
I will faithfully give them their wage,
and make with them an enduring covenant.

In Mike Slaughter’s book, Christmas is Not Your Birthday, he lifts up an idea I’ve been contemplating the last few weeks:

“Every miracle of God is conceived in the heart of a believer, grows in conviction and clarity, and then is delivered through a committed action.”  Chapter 1, page 15

What this says to me is that in this time, in this place, we need to make time and space to experience and share the hope of Christ’s birth. We are the ones God will use to bring God’s love to the world. And we need to be ready for God to take us to unexpected places, to trust the dream God has placed in our hearts. Unlike Mary, we probably won’t experience an angelic visit to announce the miracle that God has planted in us.  But unless we, like Mary, allow God’s revelation to grow in us, God’s vision will not be alive to heal our broken world.

Isaiah is pretty clear here as well. We are the ones called to bring good news, to bind up, to rebuild and restore and renew. The miracle of Emanuel, God with us, lives today only if we open ourselves to the vision God has for the kingdom of God on earth.

The Christmas season often is filled with commercialism, stress, too-filled calendars and overspending. Yet it is often also the time of year when many are generous and caring to those in need.  How can we extend that compassion into a year-round commitment?  It doesn’t stop with the baby in the manger. It lives only when it grows into maturity, and then acts in the world.

Prayer: O God of miracles, plant and nurture in my heart your dream of a new creation, a restored world where your peace and love are felt by all. In the name of your son, our Christ and redeemer, Amen.

Betty Brunlieb Price

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