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Summary: The Spirit descended upon the prophet Isaiah and empowered him to bring good news to the captives, proclaim liberty and announce God's everlasting covenant.

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Introduction

As we prepare for the future--for the birth of the Christ Child and the arrival of the King of kings--we once again glance to the past. Today's text directs our attention to the exiles.

The Exodus out of slavery in Egypt through the wilderness to the Promised Land and the Exile to Babylon consume a significant portion of the Old Testament. There are several reasons for this. First they are major events in the history of Israel. They are also very reflective of our individual and corporate lives.

The Mess of Life

Often life is neither pretty nor easy. It can get to be awfully messy. That was the situation of the Exiles. In this passage of scripture, they are addressed as the oppressed, the brokenhearted, captives, prisoners and people who mourn.

The New Revised Standard Version The Good News of Deliverance

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 brokenhearted,

to proclaim liberty to the captives,

and release to the prisoners;

We can identify with the Exiles. There are times we feel oppressed by the expectation of others; brokenhearted because of loved ones who can no longer celebrate this Christmas season with us; captive to credit card debit and prisoner to over scheduled calendars.

• There are times when our lives are cluttered

• At other times our lives are a mess, and

• Occasionally our lives are disasters.

The Lord did not abandon God's people during their exile nor does God abandon us in the messiness of life. Into those situations God speaks a word of hope.

Hear the Word of the Lord

God speaks good news to the oppressed. I have a friend who has been suffering from severe, debilitating headaches for over eight years. Modern medicine has only been able to provide him with mild, temporary relief. As he struggles to face days filled with pain, God's good news comes to him and that good news is that God loves him deeply and God will not abandon him.

The husband of another good friend of mine died two years ago on December 22nd. Now the days before Christmas are filled with sadness for her and she is brokenhearted. Still she has heard the word of the Lord. She rejoices in the hope of the resurrection and family and friends surround her with love and the strength and comfort that a community can provide.

I know a young man who is held captive by hatred and is oppressed by anger. There are many people like him. There are times when God's love, acceptance, forgiveness and grace break into his life and he is set free. This is an ongoing struggle, though. His hate and anger are strong and he occasionally returns to his cell. He is not abandoned, though and God's love is a constant.

Thousands of people have faced tragedies during 2016. Recently there have been disastrous wildfires. Earlier in the year there were hurricanes, floods and tornadoes. Now there are destructive blizzards. In the midst of devastation, upheaval and loss God is present in words and in actions. God's presence is experienced and God's love is demonstrated.


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