Sunday, January 5, 2014

“Shining the Light of the Lord” (Isaiah 60:1; Matthew 9b, 10)

S-1406 EOL/3A 1/05/2014 Hymns: (O) #126; (S) #127; (C) #129

Texts: Isaiah 60:1-6; Ephesians 3:1-12; Matthew 2:1-12

Theme: “Shining the Light of the Lord” (Isaiah 60:1; Matthew 9b, 10)

Question: “Are you letting the light of the Gospel shine?” Armour, SD

Faithful followers of the Savior, Christ is Risen! He is Risen, indeed! Alleluia! The text for the Epiphany is from O.T. and the Gospel lessons “Arise, shine, for your light has come,
and the glory of the Lord has risen upon you…And behold, the star that they had seen when it rose went before them until it came to rest over the place where the child was. When they saw the star, they rejoiced exceedingly with great joy
” (Isaiah 60:1; Matthew 9b, 10)


Most precious people of God, today we observe and celebrate the Season of Epiphany. This Greek term means: “To appear, to manifest or to reveal.” And the church throughout the centuries have observed January 6th as a Christian feast celebrating the manifestation of the divine nature of Jesus to the Gentiles as represented by the Magi. Thus, Epiphany is about light. That means Epiphany is about life! Without light there can’t be life in our world. Light is the first of God’s creative gifts that we see in Genesis 1. From light comes life. Did you know that without light we cannot breathe? Light is the main component in the process of photosynthesis. That is the process where plants use the combination of light and carbon dioxide to give off oxygen! No oxygen and there would be no life! Light is that powerful!

Epiphany is about light. That means Epiphany is about safety too. When a room is awash in light, you can see where all the dangers are. You are far less likely to step on a toy that your kids got for Christmas, or stub your toe in a light filled living room, as opposed to the middle of the night as you try to make your way to the kitchen for a glass of water. Light can also keep us safe when we are away from home. When walking at night and you have a light source, you can see all the dangers that lurk: That raised section of sidewalk that could trip you as you walk that not-so-friendly dog that belongs to your neighbor or even that person who is intent on doing you harm. When there is light, you can see the dangers and avoid them.

Epiphany is about light. That means Epiphany is about exposure too. That very same light that would give us life and keep us safe is also the same light that can reveal things about ourselves that we really don’t want others to see or know about. When the light is shined on those things we do in secret, we are exposed to the world. That light is what will show the world that we are doing something that is illegal, immoral or both. That light shows that we are not always who we make ourselves out to be. Underneath the façade of goodness, holiness and righteousness that we like to portray, the light of God’s Word is searing! It exposes all of what we like to keep in the shadow. It doesn’t leave anything hidden. It exposes us to all of the shame and guilt that our sins deserve. That is why St. John tells us that we prefer darkness to light! We like to hide in the shadows.

But Epiphany is about light. Light exposes! While this exposure can be painful, it is also the only thing that can bring about true, lasting light. When our sin is exposed to the One who is the Word Made Flesh and the Light of the World all at the same time, the death of our sin and the dangers of the world and flesh are revealed. But they are not just exposed for a divine “gotcha!” They are laid open so that the light can heal. When the disease of our sin is exposed the Lord of Life heals us! His Word of forgiveness and life overcomes our sin and death. That is why we can hear the Word of the Prophet and rejoice about this light that has come! This Light has not come only to kill us, but also to make us alive. And the life that we receive from this light will be the life that lasts forever!

And we are called to reflect this light. We don’t originate it. It doesn’t come from us. No, by grace through faith this light is placed in us by the Holy Spirit like a flame is placed in a lantern. The lantern’s job is only to reflect the light that it has been given. Through us the Light of God’s word then does its work. It gives life to others as they see the light in us and are led by the Lord to repent of their darkness. Through us the Light of God’s Word gives safety as it leads our family and friends and neighbors and co-workers out of the perilous, sin-filled world into the Light of Life that only comes through Jesus the Christ. The Holy Spirit uses that light that shines through us to expose sin in others so that the death in them might be revealed and healed.

Epiphany is about light. It is about a light that has been revealed to all peoples. It was a light that first shone brilliantly in creation. While sin and death cast a dark pall over creation, that Light would not be extinguished. That light was carried through the ages in the promise of the One who would be that light. The arrival of that Light was first announced in the glory of angels talking to shepherds in the Judean hill country. But that light could not just be contained there. That light was revealed to the Gentiles, that’s you and me, through the light of a brilliant star that led Magi from the East all the way to Bethlehem, where they would see the Light of Men in the face of Jesus.

And that light still shines for all people. It shines in the proclamation of the Word of God even here today. This light will expose and give life. It will do that for you today! And then that light will be carried out by you as you too go home by another route. Like the Magi of old, you can’t head back to the certain death that Herod promised. There is a new way for you to go. It may be uncertain. It may cause you to do things that you would never think of doing. But it is the way the Light of Christ—who is the Light of the world is calling you to go.

For some that might mean heading into the Office of the Holy Ministry. For others it may simply mean reaching out to that brother or sister in Christ that has wronged you and you shine the Light of God’s forgiveness on them so that you might be reconciled to them. It could be like a friend of mine who called this week, saying, “Nabil, I was going through my checkbook and I realized I haven’t sent any money for the Bike-For-Life. I will be dropping the check in the mail today!” On Thursday I received a check for a $1000.00. Praise The Lord (PTL). Or even like the Jewish convert to Christianity from Tel Aviv, who was harassed for reading the New Testament by a Rabbi Slovstowski who hated Jesus and the mention of His name. But when this Rabbi confronted the new believer and told him how much he hated Jesus Christ. You know what this new believer who had seen the Light of Christ did? He gave him the Hebrew New Testament to read. When the Rabbi started reading, he couldn’t stop. He read till 3 a.m. and then said, “I have found 270 reasons, why Jesus is truly God and Messiah.” PTL.

Epiphany is about Light. Epiphany is about life: Life with our Lord, Life in the Church and life in the world. By the grace of God, you and I have seen this light. You and I have daily opportunities to the let the Light of Christ shine through our words and actions as we are exhorted by Matthew saying: “You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to Your Father who is in heaven. (Matthew 5:14-16)

Having seen the Light, the Holy Spirit sends us out to speak of the glorious Epiphany to those who are still in darkness. Therefore, Epiphany is about Light. Epiphany is about life: Life with our Lord, Life in the Church and life in the world. This light is life. Life for now and life forever. It is the gift that the Lord gives us each and every day in Jesus WHO is the Light of the World. AMEN.

Now the peace…


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