The grace, mercy, and peace of Christ Jesus rest upon each and every one of you this day.
“Arise, shine, for your light has come.” To whom is God giving this command? As we let the Scriptures do the talking, we find that Zion is the recipient of these words. Now, given the fact that this is prophecy for the future, this means that Zion must be understood in New Testament terms. God is using OT language here to speak NT realities. Standing on this side of the manger and the cross and the empty tomb, just who is Zion? Answer: We are! The Church—God’s holy Church—is the spiritual Zion. As God’s Church, we are being commanded to arise and shine, for our Light has come; our Savior, the very Light of the World in the flesh. With the coming of our Lord and Savior into the flesh, the glory of Yahweh has been revealed and made known. God so loved the whole world that He gave His only-begotten Son…. In Christ God’s glory has been “epiphanized,” that is, manifested and made known for all to see.
And how do we shine forth? Why do we shine forth is probably the better question. We shine forth as a light unto the world, not with our own light, but with the Light of Christ, for He is the Light of the world. His Light, implanted in us in Baptism, implanted in us by means of His Word and His sacraments, shines forth through us. We have this Word and Promise of Christ, don’t we? We’re just the lamp that He uses to shine this Light—His light—into the darkness. Apart from Christ and His Word is nothing but darkness; deep darkness; unbelief and death.
But…our God and Lord desires the death of no man; never has and never will. This is why He uses us to make His life-giving Light shine. And it is here that we see this beautiful imagery of true worldwide, Christ-centered mission taking place, already being foretold 740 years before the birth of Jesus. This Light of Christ, shining forth in the darkness; shining forth through us, draws nations and peoples from every tribe, every tongue, every place, near and far. Like a moth to flame, they all are drawn, not to us, but to Christ, who shines forth through us. Even kings and rulers will come into this Light and bow down to the Lord of lords and King of kings.
Our Lord goes on to command us to lift up our eyes and look around at all that He is doing. His ways and means work! We don’t always believe that though, do we? We sometimes get too busy looking at statistics and dollar signs. We often get more worried about shining forth our works, our groups, our fundraisers and festivities rather than our Light in Christ. Why? Because we sometimes think we need to help God out. We have a new and improved wheel; a better mousetrap that will produce more dollars in the plate and more rear-ends in the pews, as if those things are what it means to be “Church.”
“Lift up your eyes and see. They are all gathering together.” God Himself tells us that all these nations and peoples are gathering together in the Light; the Light of Christ. And yes, we should see this and be all the more radiant. Our hearts should thrill and exult, for the Light of Yahweh is giving Life to all peoples, and He’s using us to accomplish this great and mighty feat. “Lift up your eyes and see.” Peoples are coming from all over; from the coastlands and the seas, from all over and afar, bringing the abundance of their offerings to the Lord; bringing their sacrifices of praise and thanksgiving into His holy Zion.
Our Lord goes on to say that this worldwide coming to the Light of Christ will be so profound that we will be covered up in camels. Again, our Lord is using OT terminology to bespeak NT realities. Believing people from all over the world—pilgrims—will come to Christ, and their means of transportation will cover over us; that’s how great and efficacious this Light of Christ is.
Obviously we hear this part about gold and frankincense, and immediately think only of the Magi coming to Christ. This is referring to the Magi, but it’s not only referring to the Magi. These Magi; these wise men from the east, are just the tip of the iceberg. These Magi are the first Gentiles who come to bask and worship in the Light of Christ. Those Magi came and did what we do tonight—to behold the Good News of Yahweh and to sing His praises. These Magi did what all of God’s people in Christ have always done. They went back out into the darkness, full of Christ’s Light, singing the praises of Yahweh, proclaiming His Good News, standing tall in that darkness as ones who’ve been raised up in Christ, letting His Light shine forth through them.
Dear brothers and sisters in Christ: This is our reality, right here and right now. Arise and shine, for your Light has come. The glory of the Lord has shown upon us. May your hearts be radiant and thrill and exult in this blessed Immanuel reality, for God is truly with us, now and to the end of the age. His Light shines bright, right where He tells us to look. Always has and always will.
May this Light; the life-giving Light of Christ, shine forth in all that you say and do. In Christ’s holy name…AMEN.
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