The sixty-first chapter of Isaiah is a grand rebuttal to the charge that the Old Testament is nothing but bad news. In its eleven verses, there’s not an accusation, a “thou shalt not,” or even a conditional clause in sight. It is sheer promise and delight.
The happiness begins a chapter earlier when the destitute and despairing return to their ancestral land and receive a cornucopia of encouraging promises from God. So overwhelming is this message that the prophet, pausing to catch his breath, realizes how amazing it is that he has been given such a word. He enthuses, The spirit of the Lord GOD is upon me, because the LORD has anointed me; he has sent me to bring good news to the oppressed (v. 1).
We don’t talk much about being anointed nowadays. But perhaps we could receive no greater gift this Christmas than to see ourselves as anointed. In a limited, literal sense this word means to have sacred oils or water placed upon you. That act, however, makes sense only if it symbolizes a prior act of God, a divine calling, a holy commission. To be anointed is to be chosen of God, a recipient of the Spirit of the Lord.
In this larger sense, you were anointed when you were baptized, declared to be a child of God with a divine calling to glorify God. Being anointed isn’t something to crow about, as though you earned it. It’s a gift from God to assure you, especially when life is hard, that you too are beloved and that God has a “why” for your life. In the grand sweep of human history, God is up to something and you have been called to play a part in God’s grand story. That is good news!
When life is difficult, where do you find your sense of identity?
In good times or bad, God, help me remember that I am among those you have chosen and called for good purposes. Amen.