A Promise Kept

By Bill Sterrett, Ph.D.

“The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is on me, because the Lord has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners, 2 to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor and the day of vengeance of our God, to comfort all who mourn, 3 and provide for those who grieve in Zion — to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of joy instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair. They will be called oaks of righteousness, a planting of the Lord for the display of his splendor.”
– Isaiah 61:1-3

A glance at today’s news headlines reminds us that we need a Savior. We are living in such times of destruction (or “ashes”), mourning, and despair, yet we have a wonderful exchange through Christ – a promise of beauty, joy, and praise. Thanks be to God! We can stand firmly in troubled times, for God has planted us as solid “oaks of righteousness.” This prophecy of Christ in Isaiah gives us great hope!  

As a former school principal who now prepares aspiring school leaders, researches school improvement, and supports school administrators in a variety of settings, I know that educational leaders are facing acute teacher shortages, challenges with morale, and often feel underappreciated or under-resourced. Schools can be microcosms of society, and it is no secret that these are indeed challenging times. We need some good news and godly encouragement now more than ever. 

The Gospel of Luke describes how Jesus went to his hometown of Nazareth, and while in the synagogue was given the scroll of the prophet Isaiah. Luke 4 specifically mentions how he unrolled the scroll and reading from Isaiah’s words above ended with the phrase “… to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.” Then Jesus “rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the attendant and sat down,” saying to everyone in the synagogue, “Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing” (Luke 4:16-21). 

It is comforting to know that God keeps his promises. Interestingly, Luke records that Jesus finished his reading with the phrase “to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor” rather than “the day of vengeance” passage that follows in Isaiah. Here are three proper responses for us this Advent Season: 

Draw Near to God – God has indeed favored us, even amid trouble. Scripture encourages us to draw near to God and that he will draw near to us (James 4:8).  Let us consider what specific steps we need to take.  

Trust in God’s Plan – God has not been surprised by the events of our day. But he desires our praise rather than our despair. We are instructed to “trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your understanding” (Prov. 3:5). The Lord will then make our paths straight and through his word illuminate the next steps to take (Psalm 119:105). 

Proclaim His Good News – As followers of Christ, we must seek to make God’s work our own. During desperate times, we remember Jesus’ instruction from Matthew 5 to “be the light of the world” so that others may see our good works and give God the glory. Even with all our shortcomings and flaws, Jesus says we are the light of the world. We too can proclaim freedom and good news and provide comfort through our actions. He shines through “jars of clay” – ordinary persons – to reveal the glory of Christ (2 Cor. 4:6-7). 

This advent season, we have a lot to be joyful about, and as educators may our joy be contagious. This promise from Isaiah, read—and kept—later by Jesus Christ, is indeed a comforting promise, especially amid tough times. In this special season, we can be very hopeful in knowing that God is faithful to his word, and we can play an important role in his kingdom purposes by drawing near to him, trusting him, and proclaiming his good news. 

This article originally appeared in Baylor University’s Advent series on day 19, December 21, 2023.

Bill Sterrett, Ph.D., serves as Department Chair and Professor of Educational Leadership at Baylor University. Before joining Baylor in 2022, he served as Associate Dean and Professor of Educational Leadership at the University of North Carolina Wilmington. Prior to Sterrett’s 12-year tenure at UNCW, he was a principal and teacher in Charlottesville, Virginia. 

He has researched and written about innovation in school leadership, time management, and sustainable schools, and he has led several collaborative grant efforts focused on leadership. Sterrett has co-authored publications with numerous students at the undergraduate, Master’s, and doctoral levels on topics including principal instructional leadership, sustainability leadership, PDS partnership efforts, student-athlete perspectives, and school improvement. He also serves as Co-Executive Director at the Baylor Center for School Leadership, where he seeks to support school leaders through professional development and collaborative grant work. 

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