Wednesday, December 9 —by Lois Snavely

Isaiah 61:1-4 (Common English Bible)
The Lord God’s spirit is upon me, because the Lord has anointed me. He has sent me to bring good news to the poor, to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim release for captives, and liberation for prisoners, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor and a day of vindication for our God, to comfort all who mourn, to provide for Zion’s mourners, to give them a crown in place of ashes, oil of joy in place of mourning, a mantle of praise in place of discouragement. They will be called Oaks of Righteousness, planted by the Lord to glorify himself. They will rebuild the ancient ruins; they will restore formerly deserted places; they will renew ruined cities, places deserted in generations past.

There are a lot of “me” and “I” statements in this passage, huh? Many theologians and scholars interpret this Isaiah section as a foreshadowing of who Jesus will be and his role here on Earth – one who brings good news to the poor, liberation for prisoners, release for captives, comfort for ALL who mourn. That’s a lot for one person’s shoulders to carry, even if it is someone as divine and holy as Jesus. And looking around, I still see lots of poor who need good news, lots of prisoners who need liberation, lots of captives who need to be released, and lots who are mourning who are in need of comfort. And no Jesus in sight! If he was supposed to do all this 2,000 years ago, I think it’s safe to say he did a pretty shoddy job at it.

But maybe there’s another way to read this, another way to read all the “me” and “I” statements. What if that Jesus DID come to not just wipe out all that stuff forever, but to model a way for all the individuals who followed after him to bring good news, to liberate, to release, and to comfort? Even better, what if that same Jesus didn’t mean the individuals to do it all with “I” or “me” statements? What if he put us in community with lots of other Jesus incarnates so that we can all carry this load together, on our collective shoulders? That’s a heck of a lot more good news bringing and liberating and releasing and comforting! There’s more we can do if we do it together.

As we journey to the foot of Your manger this Advent season, may we remember that we do not take this journey alone. Help us to look around us and see the shoulders of so many others who are bearing your good news, liberating the broken-hearted, comforting the captives, binding up the prisoners with love even as we release them from the chains of this world. God, may we remember that the Jesus light of this world shines ever more brightly through the filter of “us” and that no burden is too great if we’re all bearing it as one.