Advent Study 2020

Sharing Our Stories: December 2

Writers Name:  Jonathan Baker

Writers Ministry:  Outgoing Co-chair of Mission/Outreach, Incoming Co-chair of Worship 

Assigned Text:  Isaiah 61:1-11

Word of the Week: Love

“The Spirit of the Lord is upon you” begins Isaiah 61 and then God lists the plan for each us. And what a list it is – sometime even overwhelming when you begin to think that God wants to us to “love justice….proclaim good news to the poor…bind up the brokenhearted….comfort all who mourn… “ Do you get the picture! Wow! Who me, Lord?  There is no way I can do what you ask!

Did you ever feel this way?  In retrospect, during those times of doubt, I realize I had forgotten the first words of this passage: “the Spirit of the Lord is upon me.”  These words encourage and challenge me daily to risk-taking service when I acknowledge it’s not about me; it about the God who calls and sends me.

The people to whom the servant Isaiah spoke were exiles. They had been beaten down and had lost everything including their land and homes. The words and actions of the servant began to influence the people of Israel. They started to see themselves as more than exiles, aliens and needy. The People of Israel began to understand that they would be oaks of righteousness and the planting of the Lord. 

As followers of Jesus empowered by the Holy Spirit, when we share God’s love and the good news with others our words and actions can have a transforming effect upon them.  It is amazing to see God’s Spirit at work every day using people to bind up the brokenhearted, working for justice for all God’s people, and comforting those that mourn.  

Emily lived in a verbally abusive home. For all her fourteen years she had heard that she was stupid, ugly and an unplanned mistake. I saw God at work through Lois, a teacher and member of the church I was serving, when she complimented Emily who was one of her students. Lois’ caring words surprised Emily and a seed was planted that she was a person of worth that God used to begin a change in Emily’s life. 

I see God’s Spirit at work through local churches that model what it truly means to be a church with “open minds, open hearts, and open doors” when they practice radical hospitality and welcome people  into their fellowship regardless of their religious background, race, economic status, or sexual orientation.  It was Mother Theresa who once said, “justice and mercy is what love looks like in public”.  

I experienced God’s Spirit at work through Tom Lugallo, a police officer and scout leader, when I was 10 years old and got caught stealing in a department store. When the owner called the police, Tom arrived and asked the store owner if he would allow Tom to work with me instead of pressing charges. The owner agreed and God used Tom during the next several months to help me heal and open myself to the transforming love and grace of Jesus that changed my life.  

In baptism God anoints us – all of us – to preach … bind up … proclaim … and comfort. May your baptism be cause for Jubilation. “The Spirit of the Lord is upon you”…  open yourself to God’s gift this Advent season.  

Daily PrayerLord God, make us watchful and cheerful as we await the coming of your Son, Christ our Lord, that when he comes and knocks, he will find us awake and welcoming.  Holy Spirit, empower our words and actions so that the lives of those around us are transformed through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Discussion/Reflection Questions:

  1. Where have you seen God’s Spirit at work through others?
  2. Is God calling you to bind up the brokenhearted or proclaim good news to the poor?  Or to love justice and mercy? What is your response to God?
  3. What does it mean to you that “the Spirit of the Lord is upon you”?

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