The theme for the Third Sunday in Advent is “Joy”. The scriptures scheduled for the occasion are: Isaiah 61:1-4, 8-11; Psalm 126; 1 Thessalonians 5:16-24; John 1:6-8,19-28.
There is nothing that is difficult, depressing or discouraging in any of these scriptures chosen to celebrate the anticipation of the Lord’s return to earth in the Second Advent of Christ, while at the same time we celebrate the First Advent of Christ which is Christmas. Get me? The First Advent is in the past. The Second Advent is in the future. What we have now is Christmas, which comes in between the first and the final appearances of Christ in the world. Isaiah 61 can be divided into three parts.
Part I: Verses 1-4 are the words of the anointed prophet who describes his calling, anointing and assignment by God. He has been anointed by the spirit of the Lord God. What is that but the Holy Spirit? What are the chief objectives of the Holy Spirit that are here defined and described?
- “To preach good tidings unto the meek”. The New Revised Standard Version translates the phrase like this: “to bring good news to the oppressed”.
- “To bind up the brokenhearted”.
- “To proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to them that are bound”.
- “To proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor, and the day of vengeance of our God; to comfort all who mourn”.
- To provide for those who mourn in Zion, to give them a garland instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, the mantle of praise instead of a faint spirit. They will be called Oaks of righteousness, the planting of the Lord to display his glory.
- “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”. Here ends the first part of chapter 61 of Isaiah.
Have you noticed how spiritual this section is? It speaks about the Holy Spirit’s anointing upon the person that is here speaking for God. No person can prophesy the message of God’s redemptive action unless he or she is anointed by the Holy Spirit, endowed with the language of God and imbued with the wisdom of God. The Holy Spirit brings an intensive implanting of truth into the hearts and minds and souls of those who are anointed. They are full of God. Such is the holiness that is proclaimed by the prophet. I hope you noticed that. I also hope you noticed how political the actual, practical, instrumental agenda of the Holy Spirit is. This is not an expected combination in our modern neo-pentecostal age. Not many people are blessed to be able to combine Holy Spirit with human politics. We like to separate the Holy Spirit from political action. Likewise, I know of no political institution that truly and sincerely seek the presence, guidance and cleansing of the Holy Spirit. I believe that the particular and peculiar task of Hartford Memorial Baptist Church is to see, celebrate and accentuate a Godly combination of Holy Spirit and human politics. The Holy Spirit is God’s active presence in the world. Human politics is the human work of the effective organization of the society and the distribution of its resources. If the Holy Spirit dictates who we are in relation to God, human politics directs what our responsibility is to our total community. What the text teaches me is that the aim of the Holy Spirit is not to extract the individual from the community so that one’s life in God is only personal and individual. It is the opposite. The intention of the Spirit of God is to anoint the individual with sufficient power to make a huge difference in the life, work and future of the whole community of humankind. That’s why we must have a global mission, and World Council of the Churches of Christ who are working together to remove poverty, injustice and racism from the world community. We are called to responsibility for urban reconstruction, human improvement, youth development, health promotion and the extension and expansion of life, health, education, better wages and a sustainable standard of living for all the people of the earth. This is the first section of Isaiah 61.
The second section is comprised of verses 5-9. This is God’s voice, confirming God’s hatred of injustice, bigotry, inequality and the misdistribution of the resources of the earth. God repays Israel in double portions of freedom, justice and prosperity due to their unfair and excessive sufferings in the world. God promises to bless them so abundantly that “all who see them shall acknowledge that they are a people whom the Lord has blessed”. Isn’t that something? What a challenge it is to us to align ourselves with God’s broad vision and mission, so that we can become partakers in God’s love, power and joy!
Section III is composed of Verses 10,11. Here the people respond to God. The whole community of Israel enters into Covenant with God to fulfill the vision and mission which are world-wide. Their response was positive, affirmative and joyful. What is your response?
Psalm 126 is a joyful, celebrative declaration of a present need for divine deliverance. The people of God find themselves in hard times. They want God’s deliverance now! “Restore our fortunes, O Lord.” This plea is embedded in between the memory of what God has already done for Israel and for us, and the promise of God that, “They that sow in tears shall reap in joy”. We live between the provisions and the promises of God.
C. G. A.