Theme: Making Room for Hope

Written by Rev. Raygan Baker, First Congregational Church of Fresno

Luke 4:16-20

When he came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up, he went to the synagogue on the sabbath day, as was his custom. He stood up to read, and the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was given to him. He unrolled the scroll and found the place where it was written:

‘The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring good news to the poor.

He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.’

Does this sound familiar? Yes, Jesus read the same prophecy we read yesterday, though he added a line from Isaiah 58:6 too, and he read it from his hometown synagogue in Nazareth. But that’s okay, we hear and do many things over and over, especially during Advent.

Since we know so little from Jesus’ early life, I wonder how well the people of Nazareth knew Jesus, son of Jospeh. Was it as well as we think we know Jesus from reading the stories in the Gospel over and over?

If we keep reading, we see that Jesus’ homecoming wasn’t particularly warm. This is the interaction that leads up to Jesus saying, “No prophet is accepted in their hometown.” This reminds me of our familiar saying, “You can’t go home again,” which I think means that, without hard work and careful intention, we lose our capacity to be surprised by the people, stories, traditions, and seasons that we know so well.

I worry about this pretty often, because if we lose this capacity, I think we lose our willingness to catch glimpses of good news, release, recovery, and being set free. But I don’t think we ever know our friends, ourselves, our stories, or our traditions so well that they can’t catch us by surprise. So, on an even greater scale, we shouldn’t expect God to stop surprising us either. The Good News is continually breaking into our world.

So, what new might we discover, if we dared to look for it? Who would surprise you if you tried to learn something new about them? How would you surprise yourself if you weren’t held back by past failures? If you’re watching for it, where might you find the Good News?