Living the Gospel – December 13, 2020

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In our first reading from the prophet Isaiah, the Israelites have just returned from 70 years of exile in Babylon; their Temple has been destroyed, they are dejected, broken and feeling all the negative effects associated with being in exile. It is within this background that Isaiah prophesied about the coming of the Messiah who would restore both his people and the religious order. The prophet says “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because the Lord has anointed me; he has sent me to bring glad tidings to the poor, to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to captives and release to the prisoners… Isaiah’s announcement would give the Israelites hope and a reason to rejoice because all they lost in exile would be restored to them. For the prophet assures them “For as the earth brings forth its plants, and a garden makes its growth spring up, so will the Lord God make justice and praise spring up before all the nations.”

Throughout this past year, we have seen image after image of people who have lost everything due to fire or flood. We have heard the pain of those who have lost loved ones in the pandemic; we have watched as healthcare workers relate stories of overwhelming fatigue, and sorrow as they lose patients they have tried hard to save. We have witnessed people demonstrating and crying out for justice. Much like the Israelites in Isaiah’s time our world is broken. But, one night as we were watching the news with all the dire predictions and warnings, the doorbell rang. As I watched through the window, I saw our neighbor and one of his daughters hand a tray of cookies to Ken and, with great joy, wished us a Merry Christmas. The decorative tray was filled with homemade cookies and a jar of apple butter that our neighbor’s wife and two daughters had made. Now with great joy, the kids were excited to be handing them out to their neighbors. The girls were focused on Christmas joy and giving, not the news. That loving gesture brought back my holiday spirit and reminded me that just as John the Baptist pointed to the Messiah who was already among his people, so Jesus is still among us showing us the path to follow through the love we share with each other. So during this Advent season, instead of focusing on all the negative issues that surround us, let us reach out to others with a homemade treat, a greeting card or letter, and in doing so, we will welcome Jesus into our hearts; to work in our lives to restore our broken world.

Sylvia Bates