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LSB Epiphany Sermon – Isaiah 60:1-6

January 7, 2016

January 6, 2016 at Calvary Evangelical Lutheran Church – Mechanicsburg, PA

“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. And nations shall come to your light, and kings to the brightness of your rising.”

The Prophet Isaiah called out to the people of Israel: “Arise, shine, for your light has come, and the glory of the LORD has risen upon you.” That statement is spoken each year at Epiphany. It isn’t the only Scripture about light heard at this time of the Church Year. Zecharias’ statement about his son John spoke of a dawning: “Because of the tender mercy of our God, whereby the Sunrise shall visit us from on high to give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the way of peace.” His prophecy echoed the Old Testament Reading for Christmas Midnight: “The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who dwelt in a land of deep darkness, on them has light shone.”

These statements from the Scriptures speak of a light that the LORD sends into the world. This light brings illumination in the midst of darkness. Not only does it dispel darkness, it even overcomes death. It is a salvation that is delivered to people enslaved by the fear of death. That is accomplished as the LORD demonstrates both His mercy and glory. This is what Isaiah foretold: “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.”

So where does the LORD arise? Where does He bring His light? Where is His glory seen? It happens in Jesus. The statements about light in the Scriptures testify about Him. It is not without reason that the readings for Christmas and Epiphany, the times when the Church focuses on Christ’s Incarnation, speak about light. You heard it in the Christmas Day Gospel: “In Him was life, and the life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.” You heard it in the Christmas Day Epistle: “He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of His nature, and He upholds the universe by the word of His power.” You heard it in the Gospel for the Sunday after Christmas, when Simeon declared Jesus to be “a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and for glory to Your people Israel.” These statements vividly speak about Jesus’ identity as the LORD’s promised Messiah.

Tonight again, as the Christmas trees are lit and the pew torches burning for the final time in this festive season, we hear about light shining. We sing about the Morning Star that shines with God’s own truth and light. We remember the Magi who “saw [Jesus’] star when it rose and have come to worship Him.” This event points us toward Jesus, so that we look to Him as the LORD who arises for us. We are directed to see the LORD’s glory being exhibited in Jesus.

Recall what was said about the Magi after they were directed to Bethlehem: “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.” The Magi are drawn to Jesus. When they did so, the Magi adored Him. Their joy was wrapped up in finding and seeing Him. They presented Him the finest of gifts. They recognized Him as the LORD’s Messiah. They testified about Jesus’ unique identity.

The Magi’s joy when they found Jesus reflects the joy that the LORD exhorts us to have in Him. Through the Holy Spirit, we also are drawn to Jesus. We have preached to us “the unsearchable riches of Christ.” We have brought to light “the plan of the mystery hidden for ages in God who created all things.” We are told “the eternal purpose that [the Father] has realized in Christ Jesus our Lord.” That takes place when the identity of Jesus is revealed to us through the Scriptures.

As we hear the LORD’s Word preached to us, truth is revealed. It exposes the fact that we do live in darkness. All the disorder that human disobedience—even our own disobedience—has brought into the world is laid bare. That happens as our transgressions and guilt are pointed out. The LORD makes Himself known, so that we don’t just have an inkling that something greater might exist, but we learn about His reality and essence, as well as His majesty and power and unrelenting justice. The LORD shows us that what is often considered to be acceptable behavior is actually unrighteousness. The LORD opens up our eyes to see that death is not just the last, natural stage of human existence, but is a dreadful thing, the curse for sin.

But at the same time that the LORD does this, He also reveals His grace and mercy. The LORD does not leave us in our darkness, but sends His light into the world. He summons us to hear what that light He sent into the world has done. He calls out through the prophet: “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.” We hear His Gospel spoken to us: Jesus is full of grace and truth; He has obeyed the LORD’s Law; He atoned for our sin; He has defeated death by rising from it; He has ascended to heaven to prepare a place for us; He continues to make intercession on our behalf.

All of this proclaims how Jesus is the LORD who rose up for us and how His divine glory has been used for our benefit. We are pointed to Jesus, just as the star led the Magi to find Him. And when we are pointed to Jesus, we have the same rejoicing. We come to Jesus’ presence and fall down before Him. We make the same confession about Him as we heard in the Gospels. We praise Jesus as the LORD’s Light that shined for us to see. We find joy in having the LORD’s mystery of salvation revealed to us. We value the life that He gives to us in the midst of a world plagued by death. We are emboldened and made confident to ask the LORD for good things instead of slinking away from Him in fear. And we offer our worship of Him by presenting our treasures for His possession and use.

But the light that shines among us is not kept shut in. It radiates out from us as well. Recall what the prophet said: “And nations shall come to your light, and kings to the brightness of your rising.” Isaiah’s statement foretold the Magi’s coming to see the Infant Jesus. But it also foretold the result of the LORD’s sending His Messiah to Israel. The light brought to the LORD’s people attracts others who live in darkness. That attraction comes as the people rejoiced in the LORD’s salvation and spoke of what He had done for them. The LORD’s mystery of salvation is not kept secret. It is revealed throughout generations as the truth about Jesus’ identity and work is proclaimed.

That continues to be done among us. We stand in that long line of individuals who speak to the world the truth about Jesus. It happens as the Church preaches about Him in formal ways. But it also takes place as you express your trust and faith in Him to others—when you mention the relief that comes when your guilt is removed; when you lead a more excellent way of life than what an immoral society praises; when you exhibit graciousness and charity to others; when you testify about your hope in the life of the world to come. Then the Church stands as a beacon of the LORD’s light in this world, shining like the star that showed where the LORD’s mercy and glory are present.

This is what happens when the LORD shines His light and His glory rises. It is the result of Jesus’ work within the world. Arise and rejoice, for you are not left in deep darkness and the shadow of death. The life that Jesus has brought is your eternal light. The LORD’s glory has been shown in what Jesus has done to accomplish your salvation. This is what you confess and testify for others to know. And all who have this revealed to them about Jesus will rejoice with exceeding joy—both now on earth and in eternity when they see the fulness of His glory with their own eyes.

+ In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.

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One Comment
  1. Elle permalink

    This is a beautiful sermon. I am thankful that you make them available to us.

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