Isaiah 61:1-3 The Spirit of the Lord GOD is upon me, because the LORD has anointed me to bring good tidings to the afflicted; he has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to those who are bound; to proclaim the year of the LORD's favor, and the day of vengeance of our God; to comfort all who mourn; to grant to those who mourn in Zion -- to give them a garland instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, the mantle of praise instead of a faint spirit; that they may be called oaks of righteousness, the planting of the LORD, that he may be glorified.

We know that the word of God goes forth to accomplish its purpose, and that the Spirit works through the Word, calling, gathering, enlightening, sanctifying and keeping all those who not only hear the Word, not only listen to the Word, but to those who receive the Word, and the word is not received until it is taken into our hearts so that it guides our lives – or to put it plainly, when we not only hear, but we gladly obey.

Now while sometimes we might not always and fully obey in all things, for the sake of argument, let us assume that we are mostly in this camp. That is we listen to God and gladly do what he commands. Here’s the question – How would you talk about the Holy Spirit’s presence in your life? It’s a hard question – we may not have thought much about it. It’s a hard question, because even if we have thought about it, we might not know how to talk about it.

  1. The Spirit of the Lord follows way behind me, cleaning up after me and getting me out of the messes I get myself into.
  2. The Spirit of the Lord follows somewhat behind me, guarding my backside from trouble, and pulling me out when I fall into danger.
  3. The Spirit of the Lord walks beside me, we decide together which way to go, I don’t always go my way, but the Spirit doesn’t always insist on his way.
  4. The Spirit of the Lord leads the way, sometimes I offer suggestions on alternate routes
  5. The Spirit of the Lord leads the way, I follow – the Spirit has given me enough to do along the way that I don’t have time to offer suggestions.

I would guess that the last option would not be very popular – but this option seems to be central to our text – some may argue that Jesus might have followed God in this manner, but that God certainly doesn’t expect this of us. Some might say that this text only applies to Jesus, and doesn’t apply to us at all. But such arguments are not easily won, for the argument is ultimately with God, and all the arguments boil down to one simple thing – now that I’ve heard what God has said, what excuse can I find for choosing not to follow.

It is good for us to talk about the Spirit being upon Jesus – and by that we mean that the Spirit was over him and all around him. We might then say, yes because the Spirit was present, Jesus was able to preach the good news, bind up the broken hearted, and free the captives. We might even talk about our own captivity – apart from Christ, and how Jesus has set us free. After all if the text is all about Jesus, it doesn’t put any burden on us, after all we are weak and feeble mortals.

And that would be fine, except for the final portion, which talks about the new life the Spirit gives, whereby we become Oaks of Righteousness. The important thing is that the Spirit makes us oaks, not willows, and certainly not tumbleweeds blowing whichever way the wind blows. We are given roots and we are given a backbone so that we might stand steadfast, immovable, faithful, always following where our Lord is leading.

And it is no burden, nor is it any hardship – for the Lord is leading us into every grace and blessing. Which brings us back to the text, for one of the great blessings that Jesus gives to all those who would follow is the promise that we will do even greater things – and that is what the text is about – how the Spirit upon us enables us to bind up the broken hearted, free the captives, and tell the good news - because all of these things are simply telling us that as we follow our Savior, people will come to us seeking the way and the great privilege we have of bringing them to Jesus. That’s how we prepare for Christmas – we are always following – always looking for our Lord to guide and direct us in all that we do – knowing that in following our Savior we find the greatest Peace.