As I write, we sit squarely in Advent, awaiting the coming of our savior-king, Jesus. The ancient Church calendar invites us to wait in expectancy during this four-week season that precedes Christmas and then offers us twelve glorious days in which to celebrate our Lord’s birth. The Christmas season culminates on January 6 with Epiphany, the revealing of Jesus to the world as the long-awaited Messiah—our great comforter and freedom fighter.
As we journey toward Jesus during these seasons of Advent, Christmas, and Epiphany, a question naturally emerges. Why did Jesus journey toward us? Why would one member of the Godhead separate himself from the other two members of the Trinity to live and die among us? How could the creator of the universe condescend to take on human flesh and become one of us?
The short answer is, love. Love is the driving force behind God’s daring rescue mission to save us, and our freedom and consolation are its fruit.
Jesus came to bring good news to everyone who is afflicted—in mind, body, or spirit—by our own doing or due to circumstances beyond our control. This term “good news” shows up frequently in the New Testament and is the literal meaning of the word “gospel.” The original word in Greek, euangelion, meaning the proclamation of good news, was used in Roman times to signify a message sent by a victorious emperor to his conquered lands. Similarly, Jesus is the good news, the victorious King, for all who are afflicted.
Jesus, our great comforter
The ancient prophet Isaiah writes this of the coming Messiah in Chapter 61:
The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is on me, because the Lord has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor and the day of vengeance of our God, to comfort all who mourn, and provide for those who grieve in Zion—to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of joy instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair.
They will be called oaks of righteousness, a planting of the Lord for the display of his splendor.
Jesus came to “bind up the brokenhearted.” The image is as fiercely graphic as it is tender. Can you picture a great physician tightly wrapping a wounded patient to staunch the flow of blood from a hemorrhaging heart? Has your heart ever broken so deeply and irreparably that you were certain it was hemorrhaging? This is the kind of pain Jesus was sent by the Father to soothe.
Jesus, our freedom fighter
Jesus came not only to bring us comfort, but also to buy our freedom. Humanity lives under all forms of captivity today, even in the free western world. Incarceration. Human trafficking. Drug addiction. Pornography. Alcohol addiction or overuse. Gambling. Physical and verbal abuse. Consumption addiction. Political elitism. Depression. Anxiety. Poor self-esteem. Repeat patterns of relational or situational anger. Jesus came to burst into every prison cell and proclaim freedom! Liberty to all captives!
Where we are powerless to affect our own liberation, Jesus has the authority to proclaim, “Now is the day of freedom. This is the year of the Lord’s favor.”
So, where are you bound in captivity today? You might not yet be willing to name it as such. The idea of being held captive isn’t very appealing, is it? So, let’s rephrase it. What are some areas of your life where your habits, activities, and thought patterns lead you away from God’s love rather than closer to it?
Unless and until we name these things as areas of captivity, we will never be able to experience the freedom Christ came to bring us. Unless and until we bring our hemorrhaging wounds to God, we won’t know the comfort and rest with which he longs to heal us.
Who is this Jesus we seek in this season? He is our great comforter, our freedom fighter. His great joy is to remove our sorrow and our bondage and replace them with joy and strength. No sorrow is too deep, no captivity too great that Jesus can’t break its power and restore your strength. Even the one with the hemorrhaging heart or the long-fettered, immobilized captive will be made strong as a mighty oak through the redeeming work of the Lord.
This is the year of the Lord’s favor! Happy New Year!