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. (Isaiah 61:1 NIV)
Most of us await Christmas with high expectations. We love getting together with family, remembering great times, and for those of us who live in Guatemala, waiting for the fireworks at midnight. We love the Christmas carols, the church service, and many other things. All of that is fun and beautiful. No wonder the expectation of this time of the year is so high.
Simultaneously, the holidays are also a time of mourning and remembering. In many cases, we remember loved ones who have passed and have left an empty place in our lives. Those who come from dysfunctional families may not look forward to being with relatives. Even more so, Christmas can be a time of the year when many people feel extremely lonely.
When we look at Scripture, the coming of Christmas occurs during one of the worst times in the history of the people of Israel. Christmas starts to approach after four hundred years of silence, after God has kept apparent distance from Israel. Christmas approaches slowly as people grow desperate. Israel is under oppression. They have fallen in the hands of the almighty Roman Empire. Right before the birth of Jesus there are rebellions, social unrest, and violence. Does that sound familiar?
This year has been quite strange. In many cases, we have been quite isolated. Some of us have not seen our families. Some of us have lost people we loved either to the pandemic or other causes. Funds that were to help the poor amid the pandemic are often delayed, misused, or not seen as sufficient. It is amidst strange and turbulent times that Christmas approaches.
The second week of Advent, which we started on Sunday, is a week of preparation. We hear the voice of John the Baptist preparing the way for the arrival of the Son of Man. This preparation, however, is not the triumphant arrival of a king, but of one who would fulfill Isaiah 61:1. As we await the celebration of the birth of Jesus, we are reminded that when Jesus came, he shared in our pain, mourning, and suffering. God became Immanuel, God with us, with the purpose of bringing good news to the oppressed, healing our brokenness, freeing the captives, and releasing the prisoners.
Yes, 2020 has been a hard year for many. However, our hope lies in the coming of Jesus to be God with us.
The Union Church of Guatemala
Dr. Ralph Porter
Women's Ministry President
Union Kids Director
AM Worship Coordinator