Read aloud Psalm 85.
Read Isaiah 61:1-4, 8-11 and Luke 4:14-29.
If you were a movie director, how would you envision a scene leading up to the restoration of Jerusalem by the returned exiles as described in Isaiah 61? How would you show the deprivation the exiles had endured? How would you depict the garland, the oil of gladness, the mantle of praise, and the oaks of righteousness from verse 3?
How would you as a director develop the scene of Jesus’ preaching in Nazareth (Luke 4:14-29)? What direction would you give the actors playing the crowd to help them bring alive the scene that leads to the crisis?
Our readings this week include a call to proclaim the gospel or good news (see Isa. 61:1 and 40:9). In Luke 4 Jesus takes this as his own calling. Reflect on the calling you received at your baptism. What is the good news God wants us to proclaim? How can we proclaim good news to the poor and oppressed? Whose “broken hearts” are we expected to bind (Isa. 61:1)?
“The year of the Lord’s favor,” mentioned in Isaiah 61:2 and Luke 4:19, recalls the Jubilee Year, a sabbatical year when debts are canceled, slaves are freed, liberty is proclaimed for all, and the land is restored (see Lev. 25). What do these ancient traditions tell us about the characteristics of Christ’s coming reign and what we should be doing to work for that reign now? Why do you think it is true that “no prophet is accepted in the prophet’s hometown” (Luke 4:24)?
Holy God, you have called us to follow Jesus. Give us his compassion for those who need healing and those who want to be freed. Help us seek your justice for all so that we may live in your favor. Prepare us to find in the coming celebration of Christmas a new invitation to live in your reign now. In the name of your Son, who reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, now and forever.
Blair Gilmer Meeks is the author of Expecting the Unexpected.
A graduate of Rhodes College with a B.A. in English literature, Blair has done graduate work at Duke University and St. John’s University, Collegeville, Minnesota. She has taught classes in writing for worship at Drew University School of Theology and Montreat Conference Center and an M.Div. course in the Practice of Liturgy at Vanderbilt Divinity School. Blair is a United Methodist layperson, active in her local congregation.