14 Jesus returned in the power of the Spirit to Galilee, and news about him spread throughout the whole countryside. 15 He taught in their synagogues and was praised by everyone.
16 Jesus went to Nazareth, where he had been raised. On the Sabbath he went to the synagogue as he normally did and stood up to read. 17 The synagogue assistant gave him the scroll from the prophet Isaiah. He unrolled the scroll and found the place where it was written:
18 The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,
because the Lord has anointed me.
He has sent me to preach good news to the poor,
to proclaim release to the prisoners
and recovery of sight to the blind,
to liberate the oppressed,
19 and to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.
20 He rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the synagogue assistant, and sat down. Every eye in the synagogue was fixed on him. 21 He began to explain to them, “Today, this scripture has been fulfilled just as you heard it.”
As Pastor Joe referenced on Sunday, this scripture is from the beginning of Jesus’ ministry. It comes after he was tempted in the wilderness, and he returned home in the power of the Spirit. He read from the words of Isaiah and told his friends and neighbors that the scripture was fulfilled in him. Notice everyone he talks about in these verses has some kind of need. He talks about the poor, the prisoners, the blind, and the oppressed, but at some point in our lives we are all in need – in need of comfort, in need of companionship, in need of a Savior.
Let’s revisit Ebenezer Scrooge. We have determined that he was a terrible person, but what happened to him in his life to cause him to be the way he was? First of all, his father blamed him for his mother’s death when Ebenezer was born, so he never had a relationship with his Dad, and his mother was gone. His sister, who he was close with in childhood, died while giving birth to her son. He was in love and engaged to be married, but then he prioritized having money as a basis for starting a life with someone, so he lost his fiancé. After that it seems the only thing that he was interested in was driving a hard bargain, driving his employees, and making as much money as possible. The money itself was not used for any comforts, as Scrooge did not pay well and did not even use his money to heat his office or his home. As his nephew stated, it did him no good to have all of that money. In Scrooge’s sadness or madness after all that happened, he really did not pay attention to the world around him. He knew people may be poor and hurting, but it did not affect him as he walked by. He never bothered to really look at people until he was forced to by the ghosts of Christmas past, present, and future. When he was forced to see the hurt and the joy of those around him, he longed to participate in the joy and use his gifts and talents to help those who were hurting. He saw the need to change his life so that he would not spend eternity dragging chains as his partner Jacob Marley was doing. Although he feared that end, he understood that living more fully in the Sprit while he was alive, was his calling. He experienced the reason for Christmas and, the end of the story tells us that he “became as good a friend, as good a master, and as good a man as the good old city knew.”
Jesus told of his calling in this world. We also have a calling. At this season, we may not be able to live to our calling because of a hurt in our lives, or we may feel that the holiday is too demanding, and we just can’t deal with it all, or we may be all in and singing a joyful song 24/7. Wherever we are in this season, we can know that it is a season and perspectives change and new things happen. Jesus came to comfort and to bring us joy. That time can come again if we are hurting. Whether we are full of joy or struggling, reaching out to others can be helpful to both people to help find our calling and sense of purpose in this life as we look toward the birth of our Savior.
by Janet Waryck
For Pondering & Prayer
We probably don’t require a visitation from a ghost to see what is happening around us, but sometimes we do need to stop and open our eyes to the pain and hurt of others. Who or what issues are we walking by and not noticing during this season?
Prayer: Dear Jesus, thank you for coming into this world to show us how to be better at being human. Help us to notice those who are struggling this time of year and to offer them some comfort so that they may experience the joy of the season even in some small way. Amen.