1. To see the light
2. To share the light
Text: Isaiah 60:1-6
I can’t stand it. It’s like fingernails on a chalkboard. Good morning to you. Good morning to you. We’re all in our places with bright shining faces. Good morning to you! Ah! It sends shivers down my spine and makes my arm hair stand up like porcupine needles.
Every day of elementary school, especially on Sundays, I wanted to sleep. I was a growing boy. I needed rest. So when I didn’t listen to my alarm, my mother would call out, “Wake up. It’s time to wake up!” But her soothing voice was like listening to rainfall. I kept sleeping. Next would come the little rub on the back. “It’s time to get up. Wake up, Philip James.” (Apparently I got the full name only in the mornings or when I was in trouble.) But even a pat on the back and the full name didn’t faze me. A simple roll over cured that.
Then the parenting was taken to the next level. The light was flipped on. “Wake up. You’re going to be late,” they would say sternly. But I was equally adept. The pillow and covers went over my head and I was back off to Never Neverland like Peter Pan.
This now is when drastic measures were taken. The song. “Good morning to you. Good morning to you. Rise and Shine!” I’m not sure if I so much wanted to go to church as I wanted to run away from that song, but I was up. Regrettably.
Sometimes it just feels better to sleep. Sometimes it feels better to stay in the darkness. Sometimes you simply want nothing to do with the light.
That couldn’t be more true spiritually. Today we hear our Lord call out through the pen of the prophet Isaiah: “Arise, shine, for your light has come, and the glory of the Lord rises upon you. See, darkness covers the earth and thick darkness is over the peoples, but the Lord rises upon you and his glory appears over you.” This world is filled with sinful darkness. It’s like a thick cloud that covers everything. And our God says, “Rise and shine! See the Light of the world, the promised Messiah!”
God’s calling is very clear. Jesus’ light is very bright. But you know, sometimes it just feels better to sleep. Sometimes it feels better to stay in the darkness, doesn’t it? After all, that’s where all the fun happens.
In the darkness of sin is where I can live life to the fullest. I can think how I want. I can talk how I want. I can act how I want. And sometimes, I just prefer the darkness.
Think about Sunday mornings. We come here to church and we act very prim and proper. We greet one another with a smile (at least most of the time). We talk about spiritual things. We sing hymns. We act like we are awake and living in the Light, because we are in God’s house.
But acting like that can be like pulling teeth, like trying to wake a kid up in the morning. We walk out those doors and, “Phew! I can go right back to sleep in the darkness!”
Like we’re rolling over, ignoring God’s call to rise and shine, we go back to the deeds of darkness. The same mouth that sings God’s praises in here curses like a sailor and tells filthy jokes out there. The same eyes that stare at the cross in here stare at the opposite gender with an unquenchable lust out there. The same heart that peacefully sits in here screams with a fierce temper and fiery anger out there.
God tenderly calls out to us, like a parent trying to wake a child, “Rise and shine! See the Light!” But sometimes it just feels better to roll over and stay in the darkness. “Who needs the light?” we think to ourselves. So rather than treating the Light with the importance it deserves, we dart back to the darkness.
Before we know it, it crosses our mind: “You know, I haven’t read my Bible for a while. By the way, where is my Bible? I guess I forgot to pray yesterday . . . and the day before . . . and the day before . . . and all of last week. And I guess I haven’t really been to church lately either.”
Like a young child covering his head with a pillow, rolling over, hiding under the sheets, doing anything to avoid the light, sometimes it just feels better to sleep spiritually. Sometimes it feels better to stay in the darkness and we want nothing to do with the Light of the world.
Now if you sleep all day, you miss out on the blessings of the light—time to work, time to have fun, time to be productive. “The early bird catches the worm,” my parents would say as they flicked the lights off and on. But if you stay in the darkness of sin because you think that’s more fun, you might live it up for a while. But the fun will end quickly. Those who avoid the Light of the world will never ever have light, being separated from God forever in the darkness of hell. And there is no return from the torture of that eternal darkness.
My parents always knew the benefit of getting up in the morning. They knew the value of the light and daytime. They knew how much better it was to live in the light, even though I thought it felt better to sleep in the dark. So does our God. He doesn’t want us to spend an eternity separated from him. He doesn’t want to cast us off into a hellish darkness that never ends.
This is why our God graciously calls to us again and again. He knows we love the darkness of our sin. But he mercifully keeps calling. So he does again today. Listen to his beautifully tender, yet magnificent words once again in the first two verses of Isaiah 60: “Arise, shine, for your light has come, and the glory of the Lord rises upon you. See, darkness covers the earth and thick darkness is over the peoples, but the Lord rises upon you and his glory appears over you.”
For thousands of years the thick clouds of sin became darker and darker. But looking forward with prophetic vision, Isaiah saw the light finally breaking through the darkness. He saw the glory of God dawning like the rising of the sun.
God was prophesying through Isaiah what we just celebrated. Angels lighting up the sky with glory of the Lord. Shepherds sprinting to Bethlehem. Mary and Joseph treasuring up everything in their hearts. Magi from the East coming to see a newborn King.
That is the triumph of this day, the day of Epiphany. Epiphany means to reveal or make known. God revealed his Light to shine in the darkness, his Son and our Savior, Jesus Christ. Jesus is the one who shines with purity and perfection. Jesus is the one who beams with righteousness. Jesus is the one who dispersed the darkness of sin by dying. Jesus is the one who gleamed with glory when he rose from the dead.
Listen to the gracious calling of your God, as he calls to you with the very words you sang just a few minutes ago: Arise! Shine! To see the Light. See the Savior who came to rescue you from darkness. See the Savior who offers eternal life and light in heaven. See the Savior who calls you to wake from your sinful slumber and live in the joy and peace of his radiant light. Arise! Shine! To see the Light—your Savior Jesus Christ.
Have you ever been to Times Square before? A number of you are from New York and know Times Square well. (We will only partially hold that against you.) Times Square is a sight to see, especially at night—and especially for someone from a different part of the country. I remember the first time I was in Manhattan at nighttime. I walked up out of the subway and I couldn’t believe what I was seeing. I stood motionless, staring at the massive skyscrapers with bright lights beaming into the night. The streets were filled with people. There were people from all over the world who had come to see those same sights. I couldn’t wait to tell my fiancé Becky what I had seen, and couldn’t wait to take her there as I have done several times since then.
Is that your reaction to Jesus? You see the brightness of his light. He warms you with the radiance of his forgiveness and love. You bask in the glow of his glory and grace. But then what? You just sang: Come and worship, come and worship, worship Christ the newborn King. Well whom were you singing to? Yourself? Isn’t that hymn all about sharing that light with others, inviting others to join you in worshiping the newborn King?
You sang it. So is that what you do? You leave this church so filled with joy that you can’t wait to tell others? Jesus has shone on you so brightly with his love that you can hardly contain your light from shining in the world? You run from town to town like the Christmas shepherds telling everyone what you have seen and heard?
Or do you leave this place and your light goes out? You live in the darkness. You work among the darkness. Why be a distraction? Why be rude? Why disrupt someone’s life? You might as well keep quiet and keep to yourself. It will be easier that way, right?
That’s not what God foretold would happen, and it’s not what did happen. Look at verse 3: “Nations will come to your light, and kings to the brightness of your dawn.” What’s the old Epiphany song? We three kings of Orient are. Well we don’t know for sure if the Magi were kings, and we don’t know for sure if they came from the Orient. They may have been successful wise men or advisers from Persia. But they still fulfill Isaiah’s prophecy.
Look at verse 4: “Lift up your eyes and look about you: All assemble and come to you; your sons come from afar, and your daughters are carried on the arm.” People would come from afar to Jesus, even families with their sons or their daughters carried on the hip. Think of Jesus feeding the 5,000, or Jesus saying, “Let the little children come to me.”
How about verse 6: “Herds of camels will cover your land, young camels of Midian and Ephah. And all from Sheba will come, bearing gold and incense and proclaiming the praise of the Lord.” Those gifts are exactly what the Magi brought Jesus when they came to worship him and proclaim his praise.
This is why Epiphany is a big deal. The Wise Men were the first non-Jews that the Light of the world was revealed to. Since them, countless people from countless countries have come to see Jesus. They have put their faith in him as Savior and brought them their best and finest gifts to praise him. We are a part of that group of people who have flocked to Jesus and proclaim his praise.
Now the question is: What do we do next? Do we react to Jesus like the visitor seeing Times Square for the first time? Are we eager to tell others about the amazing Light we have seen?
There is one verse left that we skipped that will help, verse 5: “Then you will look and be radiant, your heart will throb and swell with joy; the wealth on the seas will be brought to you, to you the riches of the nations will come.” God foretold that when the Light of the world was revealed, his people would shine with radiance, other nations would come to the Light, and then God’s people would have hearts that swell and burst with joy.
Once you see the Light of Jesus Christ, your job is only half done. The next task is to share that Light. We have seen something incredible in our Savior, a light brighter than Times Square. Now share what you have seen. Teach it to your children. Tell it to your neighbors. Post it on Facebook. Invite your friends to church. Arise! Shine! You have seen the Light, now share the Light.
I saw a lot of Times Square this last week. I joined about one billion other people in this world to watch the New Year’s Eve countdown to midnight. I don’t know if it’s my age catching up to me or finally some moments of wisdom and clarity. But I couldn’t help but watch all the entertainment and think how completely pathetic our culture is (and especially my own generation).
They had Miley Cyrus in the middle of all that hoopla dancing around in practically her underwear and a big fur coat, doing all kinds of provocatively inappropriate things (and that was a tame performance for her). There was a comedian making fun of Pearl Harbor survivors. There were countless other scenes of music and dancing (if you want to call it that) from all over the world. In my opinion the crowning moment of brilliance during the broadcast was a young lady saying on live TV across the world that her New Year’s resolution was to get knocked up by her boyfriend. Ha ha ha.
I watched these things and I just felt bad. And sad. These people are completely lost. They are living in darkness and they think it’s great. Like the young boy that never wants to wake up in the morning and only sleep, there are billions of people who think there is nothing better than living it up in the darkness. And there are billions of other people who don’t know how to get out of the darkness.
But you do. God has called to you Arise! Shine! And you did. You have risen to see the Light of the world, your Savior Jesus Christ, whose glory and grace wrap you in the warmth of his radiant light. Now join Isaiah. Join the shepherds. Join the Magi. Share that light with others. Show them the brightness of God’s light. Proclaim the joyous news to all people: Arise! Shine! For our Light has come!
Christ the King Lutheran Church and School is a Christian church and Christian school / private school located in Palm Coast, FL.
Christ the King Church and School
5625 N. US HWY 1
Palm Coast, FL 32164
Posted on January 6, 2014, in Church, Sermons and tagged Arise, Church, Darkness, Epiphany, Foretell, Isaiah, Isaiah 60, Light, Light of the World, Magi, Mario Lopez, Midian, Miley Cyrus, Morning, New Year's Eve, New Year's Resolutions, Prophecy, Resolutions, Rise, Sermons, Sheba, Shine, Sin, Wise Men. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.