An Advent Reflection for Sunday, December 17th by Amanda Svejda
Lectionary reading for 12/17/2023:Isaiah 61:1-4,Isaiah 61:8-11, Luke 1:46-55,1 Thessalonians 5:16-24, John 1:6-8,John 1:19-28Selected passage for reflection: Isaiah 61:1-4
Isaiah 61:1-4, New International Version (NIV)
The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is on me because the Lord has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for 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 and provide for those who grieve in Zion—to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of joy instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair. They will be called oaks of righteousness, a planting of the Lord to display his splendor.
4 They will rebuild the ancient ruins and restore the places long devastated; they will renew the ruined cities that have been devastated for generations.
In June 2007, I included this passage as part of the message I shared within my seminary graduation bulletin. I remember choosing these verses because they so clearly reflected the mission to which I felt called: to share the Good News of Jesus Christ’s love, to minister to the poor, the brokenhearted, and all those desperate to receive even the slightest flicker of hope in a world that often provokes despair.
I would love to write that in the years since, I have done all of this faithfully and well. To tie a tidy bow through a short reflection that begs for the Hallmark happy ending I love. But the reality is that the last 17 years have not unfolded as I envisioned. My reality has not matched the large vision that I had in mind when I wrote those words as a younger woman. I will spare you in-depth detail, but there have been many ups and downs, and though I still feel an undeniable pull toward this mission, I am not working in full-time church ministry as I originally thought was connected with this call.
And yet, there is the Lord. The Faithful One. The Holy Spirit who moves and works in ways that are far beyond my understanding. Several months ago, I began listening to the NLT reading of Luke on my Bible app, and I have not been able to stop going back to Luke 4:14-20. In this chapter, Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, reads and proclaims Isaiah 61 (v. 1-2) as His call to ministry. Then, as the Gospel of Luke unfolds, actually lives it out. Jesus proclaims, heals, and saves. Just as He said He would.
I don’t have a clever connecting point or pithy sermon lesson for what this means for me and my story, my call. Or for yours. But for possibly the first time in my life, I’m learning to be okay with not knowing all the answers and not yet seeing the end, while remaining hopeful for what can be.
Here’s what I have learned: That it’s the Holy Spirit, the same Spirit that was on Jesus and raised Jesus from the dead, that empowers us for ministry. And unlike my naive younger self may have thought, I know now that a life dedicated to God’s call and work in the world will not be easy, nor without opposing forces, trials, or troubles. Like Jesus, we will have to keep believing, keep trying, and keep loving God and people to the very end. But nothing and no One is more worth it than our Living, Loving Savior Jesus Christ and the Message that Jesus’ life and words proclaim.
Spend some time re-reading Isaiah 61:1-4 and if time allows, the full chapter (it’s short). Ask God to show you who God is and what God is saying about God’s self through this passage: A Healer. A Freedom Giver. A Proclaimer of the Year of the Lord’s Favor.
Now, ask God to show you a vision for the Church and how You can participate in God’s work in the world. What specifically does that look like in the world today and in your home, church, and city?
Lord, thank you for the victory and light we see in this passage. That You are faithful and have done what You said You would do. That Your character is Love, Holiness and Righteousness. That You have shared with us a beautiful, hopeful vision of Your Kingdom. Will you help me to understand and to believe in who You are and what Your purpose is from this passage? Will you make me an instrument of Your Peace, Your Light, and to also be one who binds the brokenhearted, proclaims liberty to captives, and a rebuilder of places long devastated? In Christ’s Name, Amen.
About the Author
Amanda Svejda lives just north of Chicago and is married to her best friend and favorite
humorist, Joey. She is also a dog mom to sweet Kona, who teaches her about unconditional love and the power of a good treat at an opportune time.
Amanda is seeking to fully embrace her identity as God’s daughter and live in God’s love and acceptance of salvation by grace through faith, not merit. She believes our shared call is to love the Lord with all our hearts, minds, souls, and strength and to love our neighbor as ourselves.
Her greatest hope is for all people to know and experience the love of God we have in Christ Jesus our Lord. And ultimately, to see ourselves and each other as made in God’s image and, therefore, inherently worthy of love and dignity.