Please Read Isaiah 61:1-4, 8-11
This passage from Second Isaiah is written to people who have watched their world collapse around them. Great Israel, the very chosen ones of God, have been conquered by the evil Babylonians. They have been forced into exile, at least the lucky ones. The unlucky ones have had to stay in Jerusalem and see their former holy places desecrated. There is only a memory of the greatness of days gone by. And in the midst of this seeming doom and gloom, the prophet of YHWH dares to proclaim the 'year of the Lord's favor.' The prophet says, that even in the midst of their terrible circumstances, there is good news for the oppressed, the broken hearted can be healed, and the prisoners will find release. The prophet even goes on to suggest that instead of ashes, the people of God will be wearing garlands and their oil will be of gladness instead of mourning.
I don't know where you have found yourselves over these last few months, and in many ways through much of 2017, but I know as the season of welcoming the Christ Child approaches, I NEED TO HEAR THESE WORDS. So much of our corporate story, as a world, nation, and even as church, seems to be so full of doom and gloom. To believe in the midst of that the Goodness of God remains and that God can turn our mourning into dancing is at the heart of the Christmas story and the core of what it means to follow the Risen Christ. On this third Sunday of Advent, GaudeteSunday, may we find the hope to say, "Rejoice in the Lord always, again I say, rejoice.”
Rev. Kevin Phipps
First Christian Church, Bowling Green
Commission on the Ministry