Readings for the Christmas Season
The sixth day of Christmas
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;
2 to proclaim the year of the LORD’s favor,
…..and the day of vengeance of our God;
…..to comfort all who mourn;
3 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.
4 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. Isaiah 61:1-4
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“They will be called oaks of righteousness.” Or maybe it’s better to translate it as Oaks of Fidelity, for ‘righteousness’ refers to our fidelity to God and to one another, the fulfilling of what is expected in service of God and care for neighbor.
“They will be called oaks of righteousness.” The ‘they’ in this sentence are the oppressed, the broken-hearted, the captives mentioned before.
God has a future for those who mourn and sit in ashes over the desolation of Jerusalem by the tramping boots of Babylon’s armies. They will build what has been torn down. They will resurrect what has been lost. They will become the faithful people they had failed to be. They will be oaks of fidelity.
The prophetic vision doesn’t quite find its realization in the community after the exile. There were few oaks. The preaching of Haggai and Malachi suggest a community less than enthusiastic for rebuilding. The demands of survival have a way of quenching zeal. But the promise abides. And Jesus will take up this prophetic word in Nazareth and declare it fulfilled in himself. “Today, as you were listening…”
Today. Today dawns the new creation. Today dawns the remission of sins. Today dawns the gift of the Spirit. Today we are invited to rejoice and receive – and to build and to plant.