Summary: God urges us through the prophet Isaiah to rise and shine as God’s people because his light has come to the world at Epiphany!
Hope Lutheran Church, Irmo SC - Pastor Jason Zahn
Epiphany - January 6, 2002
"Rise and Shine!"
Dear Christian Friends,
Nearly 2000 years ago a special, bright star rose in the night sky. It was unlike any other. The men who saw it were so moved by its appearance that they rose from behind their telescopes and took a journey to a foreign land. They came riding and camels bringing with them expensive gifts. They came to see the one who had long been promised and now finally appeared on this earth. They came to see the true God who took on human flesh. They came to see their Savior.
Nearly 2000 years has passed since that first Epiphany - the time when that special star sent by God appeared to the wise men from the East. Nearly 2000 years has passed since their pilgrimage brought them face to face with their savior. Nearly 2000 years has passed since that day when it became very clear that this newborn Savior would be the Savior for all nations, ages, races, and classes. Many years may have passed but the effects of that star, the effects of that Savior remain the same. The good news of the gospel, the message of a Savior from sin also causes us to:
Rise and Shine!
I. Because your light has come
II. So you can put your light on display
III. To see what the light brings
When Isaiah first spoke the words of our text he was talking to the Old Testament people of Israel. Throughout his book of prophecy he warned of a time when a foreign nation would come and take them away. He foretold the Babylonian Captivity that would last for 70 years. More importantly though Isaiah foretold of a time when God would deliver his people from their captors. Certainly he described the time when the people of Israel would return to their homes in the land that God had promised their forefathers.
But in our text for this morning it is quite plain that Isaiah’s words also had a second fulfillment. Through Isaiah God foretold the coming of the ultimate deliverer - the eternal deliverer, the one who would come to save all people from their sins, Jesus himself. In our text for this morning God makes it plain that Jesus was coming not just for the Jews but for the gentile world as well.
That’s why we can rejoice at Christmas time - because there is such a day as Epiphany! Had Jesus come only for the Jews, my friends, we would still be the ones trapped in darkness. We would be the ones who live their lives in the shroud of ignorance and unbelief. We would be the ones who would be trapped by the thick darkness that covers the people of this earth. We would be trapped in our sin-filled way of life unaware that such lives lead only to eternal damnation and destruction.
But thanks be to God that we don’t have to be those people! Rather God has chosen to raise the brightness of his glory over our lives. The darkness of unbelief need no longer enshroud us. God has caused the star of his gospel to rise on our horizons. Through his Word and Sacraments our God has brought light to our sin-darkened lives. He has brought us face to face with the God-man, Jesus, who has earned heaven on our behalf.
Because He has shined his glorious light on our lives he wants us to rise and shine. He wants us to wake from spiritual slumber and apathy and see the light that he brings! Imagine for a few moments that you have been trapped inside a cave for many, many weeks. There was absolutely no light within the cave. As time has passed your fear of the dark passed, your eyes have grown accustomed to it, and you’re very comfortable all alone in the dark. Now imagine that a rescue team finds you and offers to lead you out of the cave to the light of day. Once you reach the mouth of the cave you notice that the sunlight is quite bright, in fact it causes your eyes some burning discomfort because they haven’t seen sunlight in so long. Now imagine that you refuse to leave the cave because of that discomfort. Instead you choose spend your life in darkness and solitude rather than feel the warmth of the sun’s rays and see the beauty of the creation around you and see those you love all because that sunlight caused your eyes a little pain at first.
Sounds silly doesn’t it? Yet don’t we sometimes treat the light of God’s Word in that exact same way! God in His Word doesn’t hold back any of the gruesome details about who were are. He tells us that we are wretched sinners by nature. We are people who deserve his wrath and punishment for all eternity. Those aren’t easy words to hear. Those words make us uncomfortable because it’s not easy to admit that we’re depraved, lost people by nature. Those words aren’t easy to hear because many times we’re quite comfortable with our pet sins and occasional naughty indulgences. How do you react when someone confronts you with your sin? How do you react when your imperfections and bad judgments are brought to light? Do you stand in the light confessing that sin and pleading for God’s forgiveness, even though it’s a bit uncomfortable? Or do you stubbornly insist on returning to the cave of the darkness of sin trying to cover them up or rationalize them away?