The readings for the Third Sunday of Advent celebrate what the Lord has already done, as an indication of the even greater things He will do in the future.
In the first reading, Isaiah writes: "As the earth brings forth its plants and a garden makes its growth spring up, so will the Lord God make justice and praise spring up before all nations."
This allusion to the lushness of the earth's vegetation is a metaphor for the fresh spiritual energy God will pour out upon His people. Both the freshness of the vegetation and the freshness of spiritual rebirth come from the Holy Spirit.
This reminds me of Gerard Manley Hopkins' poem, "God's Grandeur." In part it states:
"The world is charged with the grandeur of God.
It will flame out, like shining from shook foil;
Generations have trod, have trod, have trod;
And all is seared with trade; bleared, smeared with toil;
And wears man's smudge and shares man's smell ...
And for all this nature is never spent;
There lives the dearest freshness deep down things;
Because the Holy Ghost over the bent
World broods with warm breast and with ah! bright wings."
Isaiah states that just as the Lord brings forth fresh vegetation, "... so will the Lord God make justice and praise spring up before all the nations." A weary civilization cries out for God's justice and God's praise to break forth for fresh, spiritual renewal. We should pray for and expect this renewal as we look forward to the unfolding of the new year of grace.
Before the promise of future renewal, Isaiah states something even more remarkable: "The spirit of the Lord God is upon me, because the Lord has anointed me; He has sent me to bring glad tidings to the poor, to heal the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to captives and release to the prisoners, to announce a year of favor from the Lord and a day of vindication by our God."
Think of how awesome this is: God has given us His spirit to bring godly power to others. He has anointed us with godly power, not only to transform our lives, but also to bring this transforming power to others.
Do you know who you are in the power of the Holy Spirit? Do you know that you can speak words to others packed with the transforming power of God? Do you know that you have more power for spiritual good than any evil person has for the destruction of the world?
Why is this so? It is simple. God has already given you permission to use spiritual power to do good works that are far more powerful than Satan's power to do evil. The good you have the power to do lasts for eternity. It will live in the people with whom you have shared God's power, in carrying out His good works, as witness to still others, that God is alive in our midst and is making converts for Jesus and the Father, through the Holy Spirit in you.
Yes, the spirit of the Lord is upon you, and He has anointed you to bring glad tidings to those wearied by their sins or wounded by the sins of others. The Holy Spirit in you is godly power pushing God's kingdom forward in a sin-weary world. His divine energy isn't spent. It might not be fully released yet, but its release is a prayer God is most willing to answer.
Why, when we watch the evening news do we mope and groan at the condition of the world? Why do we not read God's word and simply say to Him: "Release your power in me to help crush our sin-ridden culture with the joy of repentance and the joy of living the Gospel!"
The Lord really gets excited about that type of prayer.
The Gospel is a prelude to the unfolding of God's kingdom this coming year. John the Baptist, the forerunner of Jesus, tells us that Jesus is about to be unleashed upon the world. John the Baptist says: "I am the voice of one crying out in the desert, 'make straight the way of the Lord,' as Isaiah the prophet said."
How do we make straight the way of the Lord? One way is asking the Lord to pinch us into repentance, and then we will have joy to witness to others. We simply need to give back to God the power over our lives.
William Wordsworth wrote: "The world is too much with us," and "We have given our hearts away." The spirit of repentance frees us from the shackles of sin, from the deceptive clutches of Satan and from this world's power over our hearts. The spirit of repentance helps us travel more lightly and with more energy to witness to Jesus. A good confession is a real treat that lasts a whole week.
How generous will you be during this coming year of grace to give back to God His power over your life? Every mechanic knows the power of penetrating oil to release a rusty nut from a rusty bolt. Every lively Christian knows the penetrating power of the Holy Spirit to release us from our hidden bondage.