Isaiah 61:1 reads:

“The Spirit of the Lord GOD is upon Me, because the LORD has anointed Me to preach good tidings to the poor; He has sent Me to heal the broken-hearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to those who are bound …”

I don’t know how life is for you right now, but for many as they approach Christmas and the end of another year, it’s a time to reflect on the past 12 months.

These words of Isaiah, spoken nearly 3,000 years ago, is as relevant today as it was back then.   It’s amazing to think that, no matter how things have changed, so many people are in poverty, so many people struggle with sorrow and grief, and so many are found captive.

Even in the western world we find so much poverty.   Over this last year, we have seen food banks multiply, homelessness increase, and the need for charities, such as Oxfam, rise.   According to their website (http://oxfam.org.uk) one in five people in the UK live below the poverty line!   That’s right, every fifth person you pass in the street lives in poverty – and how many people will you pass as you go around doing your Christmas shopping?   And one in three people will get into debt after Christmas (http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2072954/One-debt-pay-Christmas-presents.html).

Most of us are all too familiar with sorrow and grief.   Most of us can relate to being broken-hearted at some time in our life, and some carry that sorrow and grief with them – they don’t fully recover.   At this time of year, we often reflect on past losses, past regrets, past sorrows, and feel all of it that much more deeply.   Christmas is well-recognised as a cause of stress, and many people get depressed at this time of year.   Although some claim that suicide rates are higher at this time of year (http://www.professorshouse.com/living/holidays-seasons/christmas/articles/christmas-depression/) most authorities do not (https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/hide-and-seek/201212/is-suicide-more-common-christmas-time), quoting statistics that show that suicide rates peak during spring time.

At this time of year, we are also encouraged to drink.   You only have to look at the TV adverts and the programme, showing festivities and parties, 24/7.   Thanksgiving, Christmas and the New Year has been described as “the Bermuda triangle of holidays” for those struggling with addiction recovery (http://www.addictionhope.com/blog/one-day-at-a-time-holiday-plan).   If you are captive to any kind of addiction or compulsive behaviour, it’s a difficult time of year.

But as we approach that time of year when financial pressures increase, stress increases and we become more sorrowful and despondent, and the pressure to give in to our compulsive habits and our addictions increase, may we turn our thoughts to the reason for the season.

Christ came to “preach good tidings to the poor … to heal the broken-hearted … and to set the captive free.”   Christ came so that you could be made new (2 Corinthians 5:17) – not only free, but whole; and He adopted you in to His family (Ephesians 1:5).

So this season, may we declare:

“Thank You, Lord, for breaking my chains, for healing my hurts, for making new, for adopting me in.   Thank You, in Jesus’ name.   Amen.”