Summary: Through the prophet Isaiah our Lord urges us to shine because Jesus, our Light, has risen on us. We shine as we bring him our best.
Grace and peace to you from God our Father and our Lord Jesus Christ.
The Word of God through which the Holy Spirit touches our hearts this morning are the words he gave Isaiah to write, recorded in Isaiah 60:1-6
“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." (Isaiah 60:1-6 NIV)
This is the word of our Lord.
Dear fellow Christians, on whom Jesus shines,
Last Monday, January 6, was Epiphany. Unless you happen to have a calendar that noted it, you may not even have noticed. At one time Epiphany was marked with special church services. It was, and really still is, a major festival in the church year. Until March 5, Ash Wednesday, we will be celebrating the Epiphany season. So what is this easily-forgotten festival all about?
The word Epiphany means to show forth, to shine out. During Epiphany we remember how Jesus shines out as our God and as the only Savior for the world. The account of the wise men reminds us that Jesus came to save not only Jews but also Gentiles, like the wise men and like you and me. The accounts of Jesus’ Baptism and his transfiguration, which we will hear during the Epiphany season, underline the truth that he is our God and Savior. So during Epiphany Jesus shines out as our God and Savior, before he hides that light as we remember his suffering and death in our place during Lent.
As these truths of Jesus’ Epiphany shine on our hearts, we reflect his light. He is our Sun, we are the moon. As the rays of his divine grace and saving love shine on us through his Word and Sacraments, we shine with his reflected light.
That’s what are Lord urges and enables us to do through the mouth of Isaiah: “Arise, shine, for your light has come.” As the Holy Spirit works in us through these words, we focus on the theme: Shine! First of all, 1) Shine as you see your Light, Jesus Christ, and second 2) Shine as you offer him your best. Shine with the reflected light of Jesus.
1) Shine as you see your Light, Jesus Christ,
Isaiah writes in vivid language that brings to mind scenes from a movie. Imagine a movie opening with darkness and thick fog. You don’t know what’s going on and neither do the characters. Cries, confusion, chaos fill the screen.
Isaiah writes, “Behold, darkness covers the earth and thick darkness is over the peoples.” What is he talking about? Darkness pictures sin, unbelief, hopelessness, death. This darkness enshrouds the globe.
You and I were born into that darkness. Many people don’t believe that. In fact in a Barna poll 74% of Americans said that people were born neither good nor bad (Forward in Christ, Dec. 2002, p. 28). That illustrates how thick the darkness is. We don’t realize how lost and helpless we naturally are, even though God’s Word plainly says, “Surely I have been a sinner from birth, sinful from the time my mother conceived me” (Psalm 51:5 NIV).
And even when we know the truth about the darkness, we fail to realize how thick it is. Imagine yourself lost in a cave without any light. Any path that you take leads you farther away from the daylight. Worse yet, the cave is filling with water. You can’t escape. Death is coming.
But now listen to what Isaiah says, “Your light has come!” What is that light? “The glory of the Lord rises upon you . . . the Lord rises upon you and his glory appears over you.” The light is our Lord Jesus Christ. He is the glory of the Lord, for he works out God glorious plan of salvation.
He came down into our darkness. He came to rescue you. He took on himself the suffering and death that our darkness had brought to us. He rose from the dead in glory. He has shattered the darkness with his light.