The Epiphany of Our Lord January 6, 2019
Text: Isaiah 60:1-6 ILCW Series C 19:2104
Theme: Out of Darkness into the Light.
Have you had a bad day lately? Many people seem to have them after the holidays are over. It’s known to be a “letdown season.”
After the anticipation and excitement that Christmas brings, it’s back to the weekly grind; cold weather sets in; holiday bills come due and need to be paid. For some depression sets in. How ironic that this should happen right after the happy celebration of Christmas. Have you had a bad day lately?
Sometimes a bad day turns into a bad week, a bad month, a bad year. Things could go so poorly that someone might think he’s having a bad life. For such people Isaiah’s prophecy seems fitting.
You see, in Isaiah God repeatedly describes the down-time life. He uses words like anguish, gloom, oppression, distress, desolation, darkness, death and more. The words portray the bad times that the people of the day were having. It was a gloomy period in Israel’s history…and not just for Israel. The prophet cried out: “See, darkness covers the earth and thick darkness is over the peoples.” The “good days” were gone. Sorrows chased away happiness.
I. …darkness covered the earth.
Nowhere was it truer than among God’s chosen people Israel. One would think that things could not get so depressing for God’s people, but they did. They went from light into darkness.
The glory years of Kings David and Solomon were gone, distant memories some 200 years earlier. The country was torn by civil war, divided in two, the Northern Kingdom and the Southern Kingdom, brothers who didn’t get along with each other, bickering, fighting like Jacob and Esau of old. Both suffered repeated invasions from the nations around them. And it would get worse – total destruction for the Northern Kingdom, captivity for the Southern. Despair blanketed the people. Darkness covered the earth. The cause was the people themselves!
Israel had left the Lord who had graciously and lovingly made them His chosen people. Although He remained faithful to them, fulfilling His promises to Abraham, they gave Him grief, turning away to the worship of idols. If they needed help, rather than approaching a faithful God, they turned to the world powers of the day, Egypt or Assyria. They turned to mortal man for help instead of to their immortal God. What a slap in the face of God that was!
Hadn’t God delivered them from their troubles in the past? Hadn’t He taken them out of their miserable life of slavery in Egypt? Hadn’t He provided for them in the desert and taken them into the Promised Land? Didn’t His loving care and concern light their way wherever they went? But did they honor Him? No. They went to those who used them and turned their lives into dark despair. Makes no sense! Who runs to one’s enemies for help? Israel did. They turned from the light of the Lord to the darkness of their enemies.
Why is it that people prefer a life of darkness, misery, and depression rather than looking to God? Why do people close their eyes and blind themselves to the foolishness of their own ways?
An old Middle Eastern tale tells the story of a desert nomad who awoke hungry in the middle of the night. He lit a candle and began eating dates from a bowl beside his bed. He took a bite from one date and saw a worm in it, so he threw it out of the tent. He bit into a second date, found another worm, and threw it away also. Reasoning that he wouldn’t have any dates left to eat if he continued like that, he blew out the candle and quickly ate all the dates. The moral of the story? Oddly, there are those who prefer darkness and denial to the light of reality.
The Bible pictures man’s disobedience and unbelief in the Savior as darkness. It fills the world with gloom, sadness, and oppression. There’s violence in the streets, addiction in the schools, destruction of families, deception in business, anger and hatred all around. Greed prevails. What a picture of darkness around us! And it affects us.
The Word of God speaks against such a way of life and the conscience convicts. But people turn them off, preferring to eat wormy dates in the darkness rather than face the truth. The world has fallen from God and darkness rules. Isaiah writes, it covers the earth. From light to darkness. A bad life! All would appear lost. But the prophet saw something else taking place.
II. “The glory of the Lord rises upon you,” he wrote. Perhaps Isaiah pictured the pillar of fire in which God led His people out of the darkness of their slavery in Egypt and into the light of the Promised Land. That “Shekhinah” was a special manifestation of God’s majestic presence among His people. It gave the O.T. faithful guidance, comfort, and protection. It lifted their spirits out of the darkness of despair into the light of hope for God was still there.
In our day when we look around at the thick darkness of unbelief and despair that governs many lives, what gives us hope is the same truth that the glory of the Lord still rises over His Church to guide and comfort His people. It rises in the Savior.
When I hear of the glory of the Lord rising over us, I can’t help but go back to Christmas night, to Bethlehem. “And there were shepherds out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks by night. And lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them. And the angel said to them, ‘Fear not, for behold I bring you good tidings of great joy which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, which is Christ the Lord.’ Then suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying, ‘Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, goodwill to men.’”
What was that glory? More than just a bright light, God’s majestic presence broke through the darkness that first Christmas. Angels…a heavenly song…celestial light…joy…the glorious proclamation: “Unto you is born this day a Savior, which is Christ the Lord!” God’s Light of salvation had dawned.
Are you having a bad day following the holidays when our world still lies in the shadows and darkness of sin and unbelief? Then remember, as Isaiah says, “the Lord has risen upon you and His glory appears over you.” You’ve got a Savior. Through His life and His death on the cross for sin, He takes you out of darkness and into God’s light. And in the place of depression and gloom hearts will swell with joy for…
III. …many will be drawn to the brightness of the dawn. The prophet wrote, “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 people, 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.”
When he talks about kings and camels and riches, don’t you think about the Wise Men being drawn by the star to see the Christ Child? “Where is He that is born King of the Jews?” they said. We have seen His star in the east and have come to worship Him.” “And they came and opened their gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh.” That was a fulfillment of the prophecy, “Nations coming to the light and kings to the brightness of the dawn of Christ.” But the prophecy is not limited to them. Many will be drawn to the brightness of the Savior. “So rise and shine,” the prophet commands us within the New Testament Church, that others may see your joy and hope in Christ and be drawn to Him.
Not everything is perfect in our lives today. We do have bad days, maybe even bad weeks or months. But to those who have been drawn out of the darkness of sin and unbelief into the light of the gospel, we never have bad lives for “unto us a Savior is born. He is Christ, the Lord.” So, “arise, shine, your Light has come, and the glory of the Lord rises upon you.” God grant it to us in faith for Jesus’ sake. Amen.