Hungry for Healing

My daughter called this morning to say that her kids have head lice and the stomach flu. Happy New Year.

Now that the holidays are over, the problems are back. For a few weeks we were able to shove them aside or ignore them or cover them with tinsel. The Christmas effect annually empties therapists offices and psychiatric wards.  Suicide attempts are fewer. Lesser acts of self-harm are put on pause. Even in medical and surgical wings, only the very ill remain. Patients are sent home to be with their families and few elective surgeries are scheduled.

But the first week of the new year brings a rebound. As we take down the lights and pack up the tinsel our pain comes back with a vengeance, perhaps, for example:

  • the autism diagnosis that changes your family life
  • the reality of an aging body and the friends you’ve lost in the last year
  • the unwanted divorce that refuses to be finalized
  • the national mood of uncertainty as you await a new administration
  • the private battles with depression and addiction that you try to keep hidden

The new year brings not just resolutions for our improvement, but awareness of our brokenness. We’re hungry for healing.

That’s why we need to turn to the Christmas message again, a message which offers hope for healing in the New Year.

The Promised Healer

God promised to be the healer of his people again and again in the Old Testament, but it was in Isaiah the prophet that he told how healing would come. The Messiah, that mysterious Servant of the Lord, was identified as the one who would bring it.

“The Spirit of the Lord GOD is upon me, because the LORD has anointed me to bring good news to the poor, he has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to those who are bound; to proclaim the year of the LORD’s favor” Isaiah 61:1-2a.

This is a healing that leaves no one out. The poor, who rarely get good news, turn out to have won the lottery. The brokenhearted find salve applied to the inmost recesses of their pain. The captives are shocked to hear their amnesty announced. The inmates at the local prison wake up to see all the doors standing open. Every person broken body and spirit — even those who have brought the problem on themselves–is included.

This is a promise initiated by God himself. No one forced his hand. He freely put these astonishing words in the mouth of his Servant. He approved the message and the Messenger. He anointed and sent his Servant, not just to heal, but “to proclaim the year of the LORD’s favor.”

The LORD’s favor! But when would the good news finally come true?

The Present Healer

I wish I had been there the day Jesus read this passage from Isaiah to the synagogue in Nazareth. He picked up the scroll and opened it to Isaiah. He read exactly what I have quoted above, stopping mid-sentence before the words “and the day of vengeance of our God.”

Then he sat down to interpret the text. All eyes were on him, waiting for the sermon to begin. It turned out to be a short one that day.

And he began to say to them, “Today this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing” Luke 4:21.

Today? When would the good news come true? When would the promise be fulfilled?

Today.

At that point Jesus began to travel all over Galilee, both proclaiming the good news and healing all those who were brought to him.

The Wounded Healer

The Healer had come, but little did the listeners realize everything that needed healing. We, too, are often not aware of the deeper problems behind our pain. It isn’t just our sorrows, but our sins that need his attention. The jealousy that eats at us every time we meet our rival. The gossip that hides in our hearts and slips out at the first opportunity. The prejudice that produces snap judgments against the unfortunate person who just walked by.

He came to heal those, too. Our sins and our sorrows.

But how did he heal? Not from a distance. Not gowned and gloved to protect himself from our infection. No. Instead he came among us and took every sorrow, every grief, every sin, every crookedness on himself. He carried them right to the cross. He was pierced. Crushed. Chastised for us.

“and with his wounds we are healed” Isaiah 53:5c

This is the way God would heal his people, by coming down himself to carry their burdens to the cross.

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So put away the tinsel, pack up the twinkling lights, but don’t put away the Christ of Christmas. He came to heal and to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor, not just for his hearers that first year of his ministry, but for every year to come.

May 2017 be the year of the Lord’s favor for each one who turns to the Wounded Healer for every pain of body and soul.

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