Isaiah 61 celebrates with great joy the coming vindication/salvation of Zion/Jerusalem. Vindication, because the people of Israel will be lifted from disgrace and exile and restored as a nation. Salvation, because they will receive a “new name” as the beloved people of God who are no longer forsaken. Originally this prophecy may have referred to the approaching liberation of the Jews from Babylonian captivity.
Paul’s Letter to the Galatians describes the birth of Christ in the simplest of terms. “God sent his son, born of a woman…so that we might receive adoption as children.” In the gift of Christ we have received a new kind of life as sons and daughters who have received the Spirit of Christ and live by faith.
The Gospel of John begins with a powerful declaration of Jesus as the eternal Word of God, who is with God from the beginning of all things and through whom all things were created. Jesus is the “light that cannot be overcome,” the one who gives “power to become children of God,” and the one who fills us from the fullness of God, “grace upon grace.”
Comment: The simplicity of Paul’s letter and the richness of John’s Gospel both declare the same message: God’s grace revealed, given, and activated in those who receive this astonishing gift in simple trust. Perhaps more astonishing than the extravagant language of John’s Gospel that declares Jesus as eternally divine, is our persistent tendency as human beings to remain closed to the grace of God! As I come to a new calendar year, may I continue to open my heart and mind to the simplest ways God chooses to come to me each day with gifts of grace. May I be alert to the movements of His Spirit that offer grace, and be ready to respond with faith, hope, and love to my world!