By Pastor Jerry Donovan
The first half of the Book of Isaiah in the Bible tells of a time of warning and judgement. The prophets said over and over again look at what you are doing to one another. Look at how you are living; look at the source of your wealth; look at the foundations of your society. Does your socio-economic system really reflect your status as a people of God?
The second half of the book speaks to a desperate people who have lost everything, who are hungry and afraid and homeless; they are refugees, without any status or rights. Now the mood shifts, the tone of the book is starkly different. Now it is a word of hope; it is a promise. It is a call to live, even in desperate times, by a different standard.
The prophet comes to these people and says good news!. What? Good news for the oppressed, good news for the brokenhearted, good news to captives and prisoners, good news to those who mourn. Great! What is this good news? What do they get? Garlands, oil, a mantle. Say what? Where is the promise of wealth and prosperity? Where is the “you may have won” email that tells us we could be set for life just by hitting reply? Where happened to our normal life?
God comes to people who are desperate and tells them to decorate? It doesn’t seem right. It doesn’t seem enough. Decorations are nice and all, but they hardly serve to make things better. They hardly can be counted on to change the world. Can they? Why do we bother? Are we just shouting in the darkness?
Yes, in a way. But shouting in the darkness is a noble profession. It’s a calling. When we shout, when we decorate our homes and our churches, we are not saying that we are unaware of difficulties, we are not saying that we are oblivious to bad news, but we are saying that we choose to live by good news. We are saying that we choose to live by hope and not despair.
The Lord brings the good news, the Lord through the prophet proclaims the year of the Lord’s favor. But we are the ones who bind up hearts; we are the ones who set people free; we are the ones who rebuild. We work because we believe. We build because we hope. And because we hope, we are blessed.
We all are wanting our lives to return to normal. This Christmas season is unlike any that I have experienced in my life. I am normally a reluctant Scrooge when it comes to decorating for Christmas, and my wife is quite the opposite. She loves decorating for this time of year.
I surprised myself and her when I encouraged her to pull out all the Christmas decorations she has accumulated over the years that we have been married. I found my spirit being lifted as these manger scenes and special ornaments were carefully placed, bringing back fond memories of past Christmases.
We are preparing our space, preparing our hearts, preparing our world for the one who comes. With decorations, yes, but mostly with acts of love and service. Our preparation for the company that is coming is a proclamation and invitation. We practice for receiving the Savior by receiving the ones the Savior saved. We don’t wait for the return of the Christ by excluding others. We acknowledge them as a part of the company for whom we wait. Visit the Methodist Church and discover a place to believe, belong, and be useful.