Rise and Shine!
The Epiphany of Our Lord
Rise and Shine!
Text: Isaiah 60:1-6
Rise and Shine! Words any child dreads hearing. “I’m sleepy. Leave me alone!” Rise and Shine! Words any teenager dreads hearing. Their growing bodies are aching for rest. So what if they’ve been sleeping for 14 hours straight! What else do they have to worry about? “Turn the lights off. Just let me sleep!” Rise and Shine! Words any college student dreads hearing. The previous night there were college shenanigans till the wee hours of the morning. Missed breakfast, slept through lunch too, who cares! This is the last chance for college students to act like kids before they have to act like grown-ups. Rise and Shine! Words any adult dreads hearing. The problem is we get used to it. We get used to waking up with crying kids, or having bodies that automatically wake up before sunrise. But inwardly we wish, “If only I were young again! If only I had no cares or responsibilities! If only I could sleep!”
Sometimes we love dark. We love sleep. We love anything that has nothing to do with light. “Just leave me alone! Let me sleep!” My body wants darkness and sleep because it wants rest.
But my heart wants darkness and sleep for a different reason. Deep down inside my heart craves the darkness. It wants nothing to do with the light. You see, my heart revels in the evils found in the darkness of this world. There in the darkness I can blend in with others who dwell in the dark. There in the darkness I can stumble around in the sleepy stupor of sin.
This my sinful heart loves. It loves anything that has nothing to do with light, because the problem with light is that it uncovers what’s in my heart. When the light of God’s Word shines on me it reveals my dark thoughts of greed and anger and lust, the light exposes the dark words of my gross and gossiping mouth, the light unmasks even my dark actions that look good to others but inwardly have selfish and deceitful intentions.
I don’t like this. So like a little child in the morning I naturally and stubbornly shout, “Just leave me alone! Let me sleep! Let me stumble in the darkness! I don’t want to change my ways. I don’t want to do what’s right. I want to do what feels good! I want to do what’s easy and pleasing! I want to do what I want to do! Just let me stay in the dark!”
This is what God was speaking of through the prophet Isaiah this morning. In verse two of the first lesson it said, “See, darkness covers the earth and thick darkness is over the peoples.” There is a thick cloud of darkness that covers all the earth and all people. It’s called sin. All people are born into that cloud of darkness, with hearts that crave darkness and act in darkness. They naturally want nothing to do with God who is light and life.
You and I are no exception. We were born into that darkness, and even now as God’s people, we still have hearts that naturally love the dark. That’s why you walk out out these doors and still say things and do things that have absolutely nothing to do with the light of God’s Word. Satan, the Prince of darkness, wants to tempt you with your natural cravings to lead you back into the darkness for all eternity.
But that’s not what God wants. “God our Savior wants all people to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth,” the Bible says. Like a loving parent calling to a child, “Rise and shine!” so that the child can enjoy the brightness of the day, so also our God graciously wants us to dwell in the light of his love so that we aren’t lost in the darkness of death forever.
So God sent a light to shine in the darkness, a light so bright that it would be called the Light of the world. That’s what God was foretelling he would do through the prophet Isaiah today. “Arise, shine, for your light has come, and the glory of the LORD rises upon you.” God was calling his people to Rise and Shine and the see the light that was going to come to shine on them. The bright cloud of the glory of the LORD was going to rise to dispel the cloud of sinful darkness.
If you think carefully, you may recall that we were told how this was fulfilled at Christmastime. The apostle John said, “In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God and the Word was God . . . In him was life and that life was the light of all mankind. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it . . . The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.”
Jesus came as the Light of the world to shine in the darkness. Every moment of his life shone with the brightness of his righteousness. Every temptation of the Prince of darkness was overcome by the light of his perfection. Even in the darkness of suffering and death Jesus shone with innocence and forgiveness and love. And from that darkness of death and the tomb early on Easter morning Jesus stood victorious, shining with the brilliant light of life and victory.
Through Jesus, God has called you out of darkness to the marvelous light of his love and forgiveness. He has called you to see the light and live in the light of his Son Jesus Christ.
That is what we are celebrating today on this day of Epiphany. The word Epiphany means to make known or reveal. God has revealed to us his Son as the Savior of the world, a light not only to the Jews, but also to us, the Gentiles. This why this day of Epiphany is such a big deal. Starting with the Gentile Wise Men, God has revealed his glorious Light to people all around the world.
God foretold he would do this through the prophet Isaiah. Listen now to the whole prophecy: “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. Nations will come to your light, and kings to the brightness of your dawn. 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. 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. 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.”
We see those words clearly fulfilled starting with the Magi. The old song goes, “We three kings of Orient are,” but we don’t know for sure if they were kings or astronomers, philosophers, or general “wise men” advisers. But we do know that they came from afar. We do know that they brought gifts fit for a king like gold and frankincense. And since that time, countless people from kings and princes to peasants and servants have come to the light of Jesus Christ, to the brightness of the dawn of his love.
That includes us today. We now are part of those nations who have come to the light. Isaiah was right in this prophecy about us seeing the light. He was also right about our reaction to seeing the light in verse 5: “Then you will look and be radiant, your heart will throb and swell with joy.” Knowing the light of God’s love and forgiveness through Jesus causes us to radiantly beam and our hearts to swell with joy.
Suddenly that swelling joy begins to change the way we live. It’s like the child that just wants to sleep in the dark all day long. Eventually children learn that if you sleep in the dark all day, you miss all the fun of the day. During the day you can enjoy the sun, the light, the brightness and joy of freely living, unlike being stuck in the sleep of darkness.
That’s how the joy of Jesus’ light changes our lives too. The Prince of darkness tries to convince my sinful heart that it loves the darkness, that it belongs in the darkness, that the darkness is fun, that there’s nothing more or better than staying in the sleep of darkness. But when I get a glimpse of the Light of the world, I know that’s completely wrong! When I’m stuck in the darkness of sin I’m missing all the joy of living in the Light. When I’m out of that night and in the day I can enjoy the S-O-N light, the brightness and joy of living freely with forgiveness rather than being stuck in the sleepy trance of sin.
Basking in the joy of the Light of the world, I shine with a radiant peace that surpasses all understanding. I reflect his light with my own light. This little light of mine, I’m gonna let it shine. I’m gonna let his light shine in my thoughts, in my words, in my actions. I’m gonna let it shine with the light of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness and self-control.
Like a little child that matures, suddenly I realize—I thought the darkness was cool and fun and great, but now I know that there is nothing better than living in the light. It’s the Light of the world that gives me true peace and joy. It’s the Light of the world that gives me true hope and comfort. It’s the Light of the world that leads me to live a God-pleasing life of righteousness.
And best of all, it’s the Light of the world that reveals the path to eternal life and light. Because Jesus has dispelled the darkness of my sin with the light of his forgiveness, one day soon I will see the light of his glory face to face in eternity. There I will shine like the s-u-n with the S-O-N forever and ever. There, there will be no more night, no need for lamp or light or sun. For the Lord God will give us light to reign forever and ever, Revelation says.
On this great day of Epiphany, join the wise men of old to Rise and Shine! See the Light of the world that has come to shine in the darkness. See the light of Christ. Live in the light of Christ. Share the light of Christ. Rise and Shine each day of this life, until you shine in the next.
Posted on January 8, 2016, in Church, Sermons and tagged Church, Epiphany, Isaiah, Isaiah 60, Jesus, Light, Light of the World, Magi, Rise, Rise and Shine, Sermons, Shine, Wise Men. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.