"This Is The Year!"
It won’t be long before we turn the calendar page and begin another year. Even though the season of Advent is the first season in the church calendar, December brings to a close one year and allows us the chance to reflect on changes we might want to make in the coming one.
That matter of change is a most thorny one for most people. Because we are creatures of habit, we like for things to be on a manageable schedule so that any changes we contemplate are ones that are forced upon us. If something is not working or if there’s some way we can experience improvement in a given area, then—and only then—will we be open to making changes.
The prophet Isaiah spoke to a people who had returned from their exile in Babylon only to find their cherished city in shambles. Jerusalem was not the place they had remembered. The years of exile had depleted the city of needed resources, and the way back would be much harder than anyone realized.
Into that despondent situation God’s prophet announced that God was about to do a work that would bring unparalleled blessing to His people. God would send His Servant, who would extend help and hope to those on the margins—the poor, the brokenhearted, the captive, and the blind. Most of all, God’s servant would proclaim “the year of the Lord’s favor” (Isaiah 61:2 NIV), which was God’s assurance of a new day in which all sadness and despair would be replaced with joy and celebration.
The Christmas season announces the same “joy to the world” because of the Lord’s coming. The birth of Jesus marks the appearance of God’s Messiah, whom God anointed to bring His redemptive purposes to pass. That’s why when Jesus was invited to offer the Sabbath reading and commentary in the Nazareth synagogue (Luke 4:16–30), Jesus turned to the prophet Isaiah and announced to the congregation, “Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing” (Luke 4:21 NIV). Incredibly, the Nazareth crowd rejected Jesus’ message and drove Him out of town (Luke 4:28–29).
How do we receive God’s promise? What evidence in our lives is there that we have embraced Jesus’ offer and trusted our ways to Him?
This is a good season to contemplate the necessary changes that our following Jesus will inevitably bring about and then to submit our wills and ways to Him. Turning the page on a calendar won’t make anything constructive happen on its own. But turning a page in our hearts so that we’re on the same page as Jesus will secure for us the Lord’s favor, which is an abundance of blessing that none of us can afford to miss.
Isaiah 61:1-7 (ESV):
The Year of the LORD’s Favor
1 The Spirit of the Lord GOD is upon me,
because the LORD has anointed me
to bring good news to the poor;
he has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted,
to proclaim liberty to the captives,
and the opening of the prison to those who are bound;
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 grant to those who mourn in Zion—
to give them a beautiful headdress instead of ashes,
the oil of gladness instead of mourning,
the garment of praise instead of a faint spirit;
that they may be called oaks of righteousness,
the planting of the LORD, that he may be glorified.
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 tend your flocks;
foreigners shall be your plowmen and vinedressers;
6 but you shall be called the priests of the LORD;
they shall speak of you as the ministers of our God;
you shall eat the wealth of the nations,
and in their glory you shall boast.
7 Instead of your shame there shall be a double portion;
instead of dishonor they shall rejoice in their lot;
therefore in their land they shall possess a double portion;
they shall have everlasting joy.