December 16, 2020
Devotion by: Rev. Kerry Foote
Isaiah 61: 1-4, 8-11
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,[a]
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
for the display of 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.
“For I, the Lord, love justice;
I hate robbery and wrongdoing.
In my faithfulness I will reward my people
and make an everlasting covenant with them.
9 Their descendants will be known among the nations
and their offspring among the peoples.
All who see them will acknowledge
that they are a people the Lord has blessed.”
10 I delight greatly in the Lord;
my soul rejoices in my God.
For he has clothed me with garments of salvation
and arrayed me in a robe of his righteousness,
as a bridegroom adorns his head like a priest,
and as a bride adorns herself with her jewels.
11 For as the soil makes the sprout come up
and a garden causes seeds to grow,
so the Sovereign Lord will make righteousness
and praise spring up before all nations.
John 1:6-8, 19-28
There was a man sent from God whose name was John. 7 He came as a witness to testify concerning that light, so that through him all might believe. 8 He himself was not the light; he came only as a witness to the light,
19 Now this was John’s testimony when the Jewish leaders[a] in Jerusalem sent priests and Levites to ask him who he was. 20 He did not fail to confess, but confessed freely, “I am not the Messiah.”
21 They asked him, “Then who are you? Are you Elijah?”
He said, “I am not.”
“Are you the Prophet?”
He answered, “No.”
22 Finally they said, “Who are you? Give us an answer to take back to those who sent us. What do you say about yourself?”
23 John replied in the words of Isaiah the prophet, “I am the voice of one calling in the wilderness, ‘Make straight the way for the Lord.’”[b]
24 Now the Pharisees who had been sent 25 questioned him, “Why then do you baptize if you are not the Messiah, nor Elijah, nor the Prophet?”
26 “I baptize with[c] water,” John replied, “but among you stands one you do not know. 27 He is the one who comes after me, the straps of whose sandals I am not worthy to untie.”
28 This all happened at Bethany on the other side of the Jordan, where John was baptizing.
Priming Question: “How will your Christmas decorations differ this year from previous years?”
Read: Isaiah 61:1-4, 8-11 and John 1:6-8, 19-28
The book of Isaiah is not short, and it covers a vast period of time. We can, however, note three broad movements:
1.) The first is a time of warning and impending judgment.
2.) The second is encouragement to the broken and desperate.
3.) The third is a word of hope.
The third movement is where this passage occurs. To those in exile, Isaiah’s direction is to decorate – “garland instead of ashes . . . the mantle of praise instead of a faith spirit . . . build ancient ruins.”
In a period of darkness, Isaiah points to the light. The season of Advent also occurs during a period of literal darkness, as our daylight hours are getting shorter. More than mere positive thinking, we are trusting the faithfulness of God, which is the basis of our hope.
How are you experiencing hope this Advent season?
How does John the Baptist provide a model for discipleship?
[He points to Jesus with his whole life (even with what he wears and what he eats!).]
What does it look like to choose to live by hope and not despair?
As we decorate, we wait. How is Advent a time of active waiting?
[Through spiritual practices such as corporate worship, prayer, Scripture reading, and other activities, we are reminded of God’s faithfulness, and we receive confidence for our hope when all seems dark and chaotic.]
What are other ways we can actively wait and be a witness to the one who will come and restore righteousness? [We do so through being hopeful, by helping others experience the hope of God, and by inviting others to experience God’s love.]
Prayer: Anointing God, empower us through your Holy Spirit to see beyond ourselves so that we might catch a glimpse of your glory. Give us new eyes to see the darkness others are experiencing and help us to be pointers to the light of your faithfulness, love, and grace. Amen.