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Christ Shines Light in the Past, Present, & Future Ages

Isaiah 60:1-2 (1-6)

Rev. Thomas Handrick, Sr.

Epiphany
Immanuel Lutheran Church & School  
Perryville, MO

View Associated File

Sun, Jan 6, 2008
Epiphany

Standard LSB A Readings:
First: Is. 60:1-6
Epistle: Eph. 3:1-12
Gospel: Matt. 2:1-12
Psalm: Psalm 72:1-11 (12-15)

 

In the name of the Triune God—Father,  Son, and Holy Spirit.  [Amen.]

(Isa 60:1-2 ESV) "Arise, shine, for your light has come,

and the glory of the Lord has risen upon you.  For behold, darkness shall cover the earth, and thick darkness the peoples; but the Lord will arise upon you,

and his glory will be seen upon you."

INTRODUCTION: Dear fellow revealers of our newborn King, Jesus.

It was my privilege and pleasure to present a brief devotion at the second annual Advent by Candlelight event that our Lutheran Women's Missionary League ladies sponsored this past First Sunday of Advent on December 2.  The event's theme was the lesson Jesus taught in His Sermon on the Mount:

(Matt 5:16 ESV) "… let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven."

I reminded the ladies that, scientifically speaking, darkness is the absence of light and, spiritually speaking, darkness is the absence of Jesus Christ, about whom we confess in the Nicene Creed,

(LUTHERAN SERVICE BOOK, © 2006 CPH, page 158) "I believe in … one Lord Jesus Christ, … Light of Light, … ."

Notice what we said about light and darkness in the first two stanzas of the hymn we just sang.

(LUTHERAN SERVICE BOOK, © 2006 CPH, #396)

"Arise and shine in splendor;

Let night to day surrender.

Your light is drawing near.

Above, the day is beaming,

In matchless beauty gleaming;

The glory of the Lord is here.

See earth in darkness lying,

The heathen nations dying

In hopeless gloom and night.

To you the Lord of heaven—

Your life, your hope—has given

Great glory, honor, and delight."

The liturgical church year designates January 6 as "The Epiphany of Our Lord."  The word "Epiphany" comes from the Greek language and means reveal, manifest, make known.  This occasion commemorates the event of God leading the Gentile Magi to the Christ child by means of a divinely-placed star in the sky perhaps two or more years after His birth.

It gives the simple Spirit-inspired prophetic message that God sent Immanuel for all people, even non-Jewish Gentiles that included those well-educated men who came to worship Him and present presents to Him.  That realization comforts and reassures us that Jesus came for us American Gentiles living in Perryville, Perry County, and other places near and far as well.  In fact, Christians in some locations throughout today's world celebrate our Savior's humble birth with the giving and receiving of gifts on this Epiphany occasion.

The bottom line is that Epiphany both reminds us of and encourages us to exercise evangelistic missionary zeal by telling others that …

Transition: CHRIST SHINES LIGHT IN THE PAST, PRESENT, AND FUTURE AGES in the context of which The Holy Spirit Leads Sinners to Know and Trust Him and we celebrate the joyful fact that All Who Know and Trust Him Respond with Grateful Hearts.

I. THE HOLY SPIRIT LEADS SINNERS TO KNOW AND TRUST HIM. [3-4: "And nations shall come to your light, and kings to the brightness of your rising.  Lift up your eyes all around, and see; they all gather together, they come to you; your sons shall come from afar, and your daughters shall be carried on the hip."] The previous two chapters of Isaiah 58 and 59 provide the context for this passage.  The Israelites tried to gain God's gracious favor by shallow hypocritical religious activities, especially fasting.  They simply could not find God or go to Him due to their deeply darkened sinful condition that resulted in spiritual blindness.  They, like we, needed God to rescue them … and He gave them the comforting promise that He would do so as Isaiah recorded,

(Isa 59:20-21 ESV) "'And a Redeemer will come to Zion, to those in Jacob who turn from transgression,' declares the Lord.  'And as for me, this is my covenant with them,' says the Lord: 'My Spirit that is upon you, and my words that I have put in your mouth, shall not depart out of your mouth, or out of the mouth of your offspring, or out of the mouth of your children's offspring,' says the Lord, 'from this time forth and forevermore.'"

The only way they could successfully approach God and be rescued by Him was through God's covenant promise of the Messiah.  So also for us today, …

A. We come to Christ through God's Word and Sacraments.  Satan, the world, and our sinful flesh have deceived many people today (perhaps some among us here [in the sanctuary or listening on the radio]) into thinking they can approach God on their own terms, find Him with their own efforts, be in relationship with Him by their own decision, and worship Him with shallow hypocritical activities.  We simply cannot approach God on our own terms, find Him with our own efforts, be in relationship with Him by our own decision, or worship Him with shallow hypocritical activities.

That was true with the Magi as well.  They were apparently aware of Immanuel's prophesied birth but they could not approach Him on their own terms, find Him with their own efforts, be in relationship with Him by their own decision, or worship God with shallow hypocritical activities.  They needed divine intervention which God gave by means of the miraculous star that He placed in the sky.  God led them to His only begotten Son by means of that brightly-shining star that lit up the deeply-darkened night.

You know what?  God also gives us a brightly-shining star today that leads us to our Savior in this sin-darkened world.  That star is none other than His Holy Word that empowers His Holy Absolution and His Blessed Sacraments of Holy Baptism and Holy Communion.  In His Holy Word God tells us about Jesus Christ, who is the sinless Son of God "conceived by the Holy Spirit" and sin-bearing Son of Man "born of the Virgin Mary."  In Holy Absolution He assures us that Christ's blood washes away all our sins.  In Holy Baptism He claims us as His own and connects us with the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.  And, in Holy Communion He gives us the crucified and resurrected body and blood of Jesus Christ in, with, and under the consecrated bread and wine.  He does so for the certain assurance of forgiveness of sins, salvation, and eternal life that Immanuel gained for us with His humble birth, holy life, innocent suffering and death, and majestic resurrection victory over sin, Satan, and death itself.

So, how do we come to Christ?  We do so the same way the Magi did, namely, on God's terms by Him coming to us in His means of grace and leading us to Christ.  In fact, as the Magi then saw Christ with their physical eyes that God conditioned with Spirit-given faith, we today see Immanuel with our own eyes when by that same Spirit-given faith …

B. We see Christ in God's Word and Sacraments.  That's right!  For us to see Christ in His truth and purity we must look for Him where He reveals Himself to us.  So, every time we faithfully and diligently read and hear God's written Holy Word, we see the living Holy Word, Jesus Christ.  Every time we observe and participate in the Sacrament of Holy Baptism (especially in the Divine Service, where it is most appropriate for that sacramental act to be performed when the body of Christ is gathered in the presence of this altar) we see Christ claim that sinner when the sign of His cross is traced upon the forehead and heart and water is splashed upon the head in the name of the Triune God.  And every time we partake of the Holy Supper, we see Christ when we consume His body and blood in those consecrated elements of bread and wine.

It all seems so simplistically surreal to many people today even as it maybe seemed to the Israelites languishing in captivity hundreds of years before Christ's birth.  Nevertheless, the marvelous truth that is our privilege and responsibility to tell others is that …

Transition: CHRIST SHINES LIGHT IN THE PAST, PRESENT, AND FUTURE AGES in the context of which The Holy Spirit Leads Sinners to Know and Trust Him and we celebrate the joyful fact that All Who Know and Trust Him Respond with Grateful Hearts.

II. ALL WHO KNOW AND TRUST HIM RESPOND WITH GRATEFUL HEARTS. [5-6: "Then you shall see and be radiant; your heart shall thrill and exult, because the abundance of the sea shall be turned to you, the wealth of the nations shall come to you.  A multitude of camels shall cover you, the young camels of Midian and Ephah; all those from Sheba shall come.  They shall bring gold and frankincense, and shall bring good news, the praises of the Lord."] You know, it was less than two weeks ago that we joined together with family members, friends, and fellow Believers for our annual formal celebration of Christ's birth.  That occasion caused uncomfortable but exciting crowded conditions in this sanctuary and our homes.  We not only wished one another the hope, joy, peace, and love that Christmas inspires, but we also gave and received gifts that communicated that same hope, joy, peace, and love.  By the way, with that in mind, I take this opportunity to sincerely say "Thank you!" (in addition to what was printed in last Sunday's bulletin) in behalf of us pastors, other called workers, and support staff for the many cards, gifts, and other expressions of grateful appreciation you generously showered upon us.

What is it that hopefully motivated such gift-giving?  A proper purpose of that activity is that …

A. We joyfully shine forth the light of Christ.  What is quite likely our Lord's most popular and beloved statement of all time declares,

(John 3:16 ESV) "For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life."

God shined forth the light of Christ to us by giving us the Gift of His Son, in and through whom He gives us the gifts of forgiveness, salvation, and eternal life.  Those gifts brightly illuminate our otherwise dismally dark world, something God tells us about when the Psalmist wrote,

(Ps 119:105 ESV) "Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path."

As I proclaimed two short weeks ago on the Fourth Sunday of Advent,

(John 1:4-5 ESV) "In him [Jesus Christ] was life, and the life was the light of men.  The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it."

Because we are "little Christs" (the meaning of the name "Christian" that God gave us in our Baptism) we now strive to shine His light to all with whom we come into contact in this life.  We do so when we comfort the hurting, encourage the distressed, visit the infirm, feed the hungry, clothe the naked, lift up the downtrodden, console the bereaved, reassure the repentant, tell others about Jesus who don't yet know Him, pray for all, and countless other activities of a personal relational nature.  We do all those things and more in the name of Christ, of whose mystical body we are a part together with all who trust Him with Spirit-given faith.

In addition to shining forth the light of Christ, at the same time …

B. We thankfully give gifts of appreciation to Christ.  That's what we do when the ushers come forward to receive our monetary offerings.  When we correctly understand what we are doing and why, we realize that we joyfully offer our monetary gifts to God as a statement of thankful appreciation for His gift of Jesus Christ to us.  We do so knowing that

(2 Cor 9:7 ESV) "… God loves a cheerful giver."

You see, properly-motivated giving is an activity of thankfully offering back to God a generous percentage of the time, talents, and treasures He gave us to manage in ways that please Him.  We do so imitating the Magi, who when they found the toddler Jesus they generously gave Him gold, frankincense, and myrrh in fulfillment of Isaiah's Spirit-guided prophecy.  When all of us pastors, other called workers, support staff, Elders, elected and recruited leaders, and general congregational membership finally join together in exercising our Spirit-given trust of God by doing so, we will then be able to meet all our congregation's financial obligations (including paying off the school building loan); add additional resources that will enable us to increase our service to our congregation, community, and beyond; and financially support all our workers in a most proper God-pleasing way.

Such grateful giving together with our sanctified living will reflect the fact that …

Transition: CHRIST SHINES LIGHT IN THE PAST, PRESENT, AND FUTURE AGES in the context of which The Holy Spirit Leads Sinners to Know and Trust Him and we celebrate the joyful fact that All Who Know and Trust Him Respond with Grateful Hearts.

CONCLUSION: St. Paul revealed in today's Epistle Reading that

(Eph 3:6, 8-9 ESV) "… the Gentiles are fellow heirs, members of the same body, and partakers of the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel.  To me, though I am the very least of all the saints, this grace was given, to preach to the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ, and to bring to light for everyone what is the plan of the mystery hidden for ages in God who created all things … ."

God is absolutely impartial regarding human distinctions of age, gender, race, nationality, ethnic origin, social status, economic gain, cultural position, or whatever.  All people who believe in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior compose His mystical body, the Church, receive His gracious inheritance, are reassured by His gospel promises, and bask in His rich light that reveals Himself to us!  It is now our privilege to proclaim that truth to all people both locally and globally.

St. Matthew made known the following about the Magi's visit to the newborn Jesus:

(Matt 2:9-11 ESV) "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.  And going into the house they saw the child with Mary his mother, and they fell down and worshiped him.  Then, opening their treasures, they offered him gifts, gold and frankincense and myrrh."

Let's faithfully follow their example whereby we study, know, and pay careful attention to God's Holy Word; joyfully rejoice over and follow the guidance He gives us in it; humbly and sincerely worship our Savior, Jesus Christ; and generously offer Him our very best gifts.  Let's do so because Christ Shines Light in the Past, Present, and Future Ages in the context of which the Holy Spirit Leads Sinners to Know and Trust Him and we celebrate the joyful fact that All Who Know and Trust Him Respond with Grateful Hearts.

God grant all of it for the sake of Jesus Christ, His humble Son, our holy Savior.  Amen.

A continued very Merry Christmas to all of you and may you have a truly God-Blessed 2008 in the name of the Triune God—Father,  Son, and Holy Spirit.  [Amen.]



This sermon is not copyrighted. It is God's gift to His Church for free and unrestricted use through me who am one of His many faithful servants. Please exercise the common courtesy of properly acknowledging its source should you use part or all of it for any purposes.



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