Summary: Serom for the Epiphany of our Lord
Merry Christmas! Happy New Year! How often during these past weeks haven’t we heard these greetings? It seemed that everywhere we went people greeted us by saying, "Merry Christmas!" “Have a Happy New Year!” But now that Christmas is over, and the New Year come and gone people no longer use these greetings.
For Christians, especially Gentile Christians like us, Christmas isn’t really over. In fact, it has just begun. Tomorrow, January 6, is Epiphany. Next to Easter, Epiphany is the oldest Christian church festival. It is older than Christmas Day which we celebrated only a few weeks ago. Epiphany is called "The Christmas of the Gentiles."
But Epiphany actually means “to reveal or appear” and in the church we celebrate this festival because God revealed the Light of the World to us. Epiphany marks the coming of the Wise men to see the Christ child. Their coming was recorded in the Gospel Lesson for today. These Wise men were Gentiles. They were non-Jews just like you and me. They had come looking for the One who was born King of the Jews as we heard in our Gospel lesson for today. When they found the Christ child, they worshipped him. They worshiped him not only as the King of the Jews, but also as their Lord and Savior. The Wise men truly had a Happy New Year. They had found him who is the solution to their greatest problem. They rejoiced because they knew that they were members of God’s eternal family. In response to all these great things, the Wise men made use of the opportunity to praise God and to show their love in presenting him with gifts.
For many the greetings "Merry Christmas!" or “Happy New Year” is an empty expression. For them it is just another way of saying, "Hello" or "Good-bye." It doesn’t have a whole lot of meaning behind it.
In the words of our text, the prophet uses that same greeting. In essence he says, "Happy New Year to All." Isaiah does more than simply wish that we have a Happy New Year. He tells us why our new year is truly a happy one. We can enjoy the New Year because Our Big Problem Is Solved, and Our Eternal Family Is Growing.
We truly can have a glorious new year because our big problem is solved. Isaiah refers to our big problem when he writes, “See, darkness covers the earth and thick darkness the peoples” (Isaiah 50:2).
The darkness the covers the earth is not physical darkness. Isaiah is not referring to this time of the year when there are more hours of darkness than daylight. The darkness the covers the world is the darkness of sin and unbelief. Just as a person in total darkness cannot see a thing, so the people of the world cannot see anything spiritual. They are blinded by sin and unbelief. They don’t know that what they are doing is wrong. They don’t know that they are headed for an eternity in hell. This is true of every individual that does not know and believes in Jesus Christ.
For all believers this big problem of spiritual darkness has been solved. They are no longer in darkness. To believers Isaiah says, “Arise, shine, for your Light has come, and the glory of the Lord rises like the dawn upon you. ..The Lord rises like the dawn upon you, and His glory appears over you” (Isaiah 60:1-2)
Isaiah reminds us that our Light has come. In fact, the Light of the world has come. The one who dispels the great darkness of sin and unbelief is here. The one who does this is Jesus Christ, the Son of God. Jesus himself said, "I am the Light of the world, whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life" (John 8:12).
As we look at the life of Jesus, hear his words, see his miracles, we come to the same conclusion that John did. The Word became flesh and lived for a while 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... In him was life, and that life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness. [John 1:14, 4-5]
When we think of seeing the glory of the Lord in Christ, we perhaps think of his transfiguration. There on the mountain, the glory of his divinity shown through his clothing and was evident on his face. But the glory of the Lord was evident also in his living among us, his fulfilling of the law in our place, his complete work of salvation by giving up his life on the cross for you and me, and his sending of the Holy Spirit to live in our hearts, the seal that guarantees we are God’s children and heirs of eternal life.