Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Bethany Bullet - December 13, 2011

The prophet Isaiah’s message to the people was clear, the Anointed One will:

  • proclaim good news
  • bind-up the broken
  • free the captive
  • release from darkness the prisoners
  • and proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor

These same words—Isaiah’s words—were spoken years later in a humble synagogue by a man from Nazareth. Luke picks up the story, “Then he rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the attendant and sat down. The eyes of everyone in the synagogue were fastened on him, and he began by saying to them, ‘Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.’” (Luke 4:20-21)

Prophetic words coming to fruition. Jesus of Nazareth has come into the world and He will accomplish exactly what Isaiah said. God’s Anointed, His Messiah, the Christ has come and He sees a world littered with brokenness, suffering, under oppression & persecution, captive to sin, flailing in darkness, and longing for good news. In the midst of this, the Christ has come, and the earth will never be the same.

It was other words of the prophet Isaiah that announced the great event, “The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of the shadow of death a light has dawned.” (Isaiah 9:2)

This time of year we experience days filled with more hours of darkness than light. The same might be said of our lives, not just this time of year, but all year. And as we live, we find the dark corners of this world alluring. The darkness has a way of hiding things. Shadows mask reality and lurking in those spaces we find the sin that so easily entangles and we become captives. The darkness of sin surrounds us and soon we find ourselves bound, prisoners of the dark.

The Light of Christmas

By Helen Grace Lee-Scheid

The Second World War raged in Europe during Christmas Eve 1944. Mother, with four small children, had fled our native Ukraine with the retreating German army. Father had been reported missing in action. Now we were refugees living in a two-room shack in Poland.

The fighting front was only about 30 miles away. Frequent air raids sent us scurrying for cover. Explosions rattled the windows. Army trucks brought in the wounded and the dead. Hay wagons filled with refugees rumbled west; bombers droned overhead and army tanks rolled east.

Nobody in his right mind went out into the dark winter night. And yet…it was Christmas Eve and we had been invited to a party in a neighboring village. Mother, wanting to give us children joy, accepted. She instructed my sister and me to dress warmly against the winter's cold. "Tonight we're going to a party," she said. Being only eight-years old, I sensed no danger--only wondrous excitement.

Hurriedly, my sister and I dressed. A simple wick flickered in a saucer of oil--our only light. We could barely see her shadowy form as she bustled about getting my four-year-old brother, Fred, and almost two-year-old sister, Katie, ready. Finally Mother was putting on her heavy winter coat, kerchief, and warm felt boots. With one small breath, she blew out the oil lamp. It was pitch dark now. "Open the door," she called to me.

We stepped onto the crisp snow covering the farmyard. A moon crescent hung above a large house across the yard where the estate owners lived--kind people who treated us refugees well. It, too, was shrouded in darkness. At the road, we stopped. Although I knew it well from my treks to school, I could barely make out the houses on either side of the street. No street lights were allowed now. Windows heavily draped permitted no light to seep out of the houses. My mother hesitated for a brief moment. Then she said, "Come, we'll take the shortcut across the fields."

The snow crunched as our feet punched holes in the white expanse of open fields. Stars spangled the vault of sky above us. A blood-red glow smeared the eastern sky. At times an explosion sent flames shooting into the sky.

"Girls, recite your poems to me." Mother's voice sounded a bit shaky. Our recitations of Christmas poems made white puffs in the cold night air. Mother said, "Speak up loud and clear when your turn comes. No mumbling." On and on we walked. But we were far too excited to be tired. Finally we arrived at our friends' house. The door opened and we stepped inside. I felt I had stepped into heaven itself. Lights! A whole room-full of lights.

Candlelight flickered from a small Christmas tree and bounced out of happy children's eyes. Heavily draped windows kept the light inside--for us to revel in. Red paper chains decked the tree; delicate paper cherubs smiled down upon us. We squeezed in amongst women and children sitting on the floor. Soon the room filled with singing. We sang with gusto and from memory, songs that lifted our hearts above the terrors of war and inspired new hope for the days ahead.

I can't remember our long trek home that night, but I do remember the wonderful gifts I received; my right pocket bulged with the most beautiful ball I'd ever seen. The other pocket held three cookies!

Soon after that wonderful Christmas party, we were evacuated. Icy winds blew snow into our faces as we cowered on an uncovered hay wagon pulled by two scrawny horses. With the front so close behind, we traveled day and night. Once it was safe to stop, we slept in drafty barns. We ate hunks of frozen bread and drank the occasional cup of milk supplied by a Red Cross jeep. But the warm memory of that Christmas celebration shone like a small candle in the darkness.

Darkness, a deep heavy darkness has covered the earth. It holds us captive to sin. It surrounds our souls.

What holds you captive?

  • The regret of poor decisions
  • Remorse for what has been lost
  • A relapse into destructive behavior
  • Reservations of the future
  • Fear of reprisal for your actions

The prophet Isaiah speaks to you today in the actions of the one who fulfilled his words,

18 “The Spirit of the Lord is on me,
because he has anointed me
to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners
and recovery of sight for the blind,
to release the oppressed,
19 to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”
(Luke 4:18-19)

While the darkness of sin surrounds, we are reminded in this season of Advent that the light of Christ brings liberty! The Lord’s favor is at hand. Because of Jesus you have been released from the darkness, freed from captivity.

  • Regret has been removed
  • Remorse is changed to rejoicing
  • The relapse has been reversed
  • Reservations are now reunions
  • No fear of reprisal only the promise of redemption.

Living in the light brings refreshment, restitution, and a reinvigoration of the hope we have in Jesus. This time of year we gather in the presence of the light to sing songs, to receive gifts, and to revel in the wonder of what the Christ child brings.

The war of sin my rage on, but we can carry on reciting the poems of God’s word as we tarry along in hopeful expectation of the home that awaits us, filled with lights, it will be heaven itself. The light of Christ will flicker in our eyes, we will sing with gusto praises from memory and our pockets will bulge with gifts from the king.

Until that day, we find ourselves again and again in this place, filled with light, finding redemption in His word, filled with his meal, cleansed by his blood, revived to once again face the dark, this time with the hope of freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners and the proclamation of the Lord’s favor forever.

-Pastor Seth Moorman


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