Prepare to Listen. (If using, light two purple and pink Advent candles.) They will be called oaks of righteousness, the planting of the LORD.
Prayerfully Read Isaiah 61:1-4
The spirit of the Lord GOD is upon me,
because the LORD has anointed me;
he has sent me to bring good news to the oppressed,
to bind up the broken-hearted,
to proclaim liberty to the captives,
and release to the prisoners;
2to proclaim the year of the LORD’s favour,
and the day of vengeance of our God;
to comfort all who mourn;
3to 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.
4They shall build up the ancient ruins,
they shall raise up the former devastations;
they shall repair the ruined cities,
the devastations of many generations.
Since Jesus read this Isaiah text in the Nazareth Synagogue and claimed he’d come to fulfill it, we read it today and think Messiah. We presume the Jews did too and were excited that day about Jesus. Thus, their reaction is surprising. They were “filled with rage” and wanted to murder him. Their unexpected response was the result of knowing the subversive and transformative nature Isaiah’s vision. They knew, when fulfilled, it would radically impact their lives, turning them upside down.
The “year of the LORD’s favor” refers to Jubilee, a 50th year sabbatical for all creation. It included cancellation of debts, restoration of land to original owners, and addressing social and economic inequalities, a reversal of status. The powerful are brought low and the poor lifted up; the hungry filled with good things and the rich sent away empty, as Mary sang (Lk. 1:52-53). The vision, as Brueggemann writes, “concerns the concrete issues of a community in trouble, and it proposes a transformative response.” It’s an unpopular vision with the wealthy and the power-brokers, both political and religious, but gives concrete hope to the disadvantaged and vulnerable poor.
Jesus claimed he’d come to inaugurate this reversal, not for one Jubilee year, but forever. In essence, he said, ‘I’ll act out Jubilee; the reversal of status begins now in me, and will never end.’ Are we willing to join him, proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor and accept the transformation that may be costly to us?
What hinders/encourages you to join Jesus in his vision of a new society that lives the promises of Jubilee?
Lord, give me the courage to proclaim and live the year of your favor when you reverse the order of the world and give justice to the disadvantaged. Amen.
Live obediently. Proclaim and live the year of the Lord’s favor.
 See Luke 4:18-30.  See Leviticus 25:8ff.
 Brueggemann, W. Isaiah 40-66. Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox Press, 1998, p. 214.