Look for the Light
Rev. Kurt Lantz Epiphany Isaiah 60:1-6
January 05, 2023 Resurrection Lutheran Church St. Catharines, ON
Dear people on whom the light has shone,
Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
It must have been a welcome confirmation when Joseph opened the door to admit the foreigners into the house. These callers from the east may have come up to two years after the Baby arrived. At least that is the timing King Herod used for his attempted extermination of the boy born King of the Jews in Bethlehem (Matthew 2:16). So you see, there could have been quite a long period of dirty diapers to potty training, night-time feedings to sleeping through. It may have been a good long while since the parents had heard from an angel or been sought out by shepherds. It may have been more than a year since Simeon proclaimed the Child to be “a light for revelation to the Gentiles” (Luke 2:32) and Anna spoke of Him at the temple for all to hear (v. 38).
The day to day efforts of working class life in the ancient Middle East would have been no less taxing than what we are familiar with. Life with a toddler in the house is busy and exhausting. Parents are prone to times of depression. So it is important to mark and celebrate those joyous intervening moments when their babies reach milestones like walking and talking, or receive recognition for being ever so cute or bright.
Yes, it must have been one of those joyous moments when Joseph answered the knock at the door and found most distinguished persons and entourage. It would have immediately brought back the memories of angels and shepherds, and recalled to mind the words of Simeon and Anna. At his door were wise men from far off nations coming to see his Boy with a treasure trove of kingly gifts.
Our lives are in need of such moments of joyous confirmation that “Unto us a Child is born, Unto us a Son is given” (Isaiah 9:6). For the great celebration of Christmas does not stay with us as we go back to our day-to-day doldrums. The Christ-Child becomes a chore as there are duties and responsibilities in the house of God (communion ware to set; classes to teach; meetings to attend; policies to enact). All the while the dirty diapers of our sins and the sleepless nights with consciences crying out in guilt and shame are regular and steady. They cause us to forget the good and glad news of the Child that has been born to us; not to forget the Child per se, but to forget the joyous blessing of the “light for revelation to the Gentiles,” to us.
Through the prophet Isaiah, the LORD implored His people, to “Rise, Shine, your light has come and the glory of the LORD has risen upon you” (Isaiah 60:1). It is the inspiration for tired parents to get up and see to their children. It is the motivation for burnt out workers to toil day after day in order to provide for their families. It is the strength needed to daily confess our sins and to regularly come to the Christ Child to lay down our guilt and shame. It gives us the drive we need to serve in the Church and to spread abroad the good news. Where any of that is lacking it is a sure bet that, like exhausted parents of a toddler, we need an infusion of the joy of the Child born to us, a reminder of the blessings in the Son given to us.
Isaiah’s prophecy was uttered in a time of depression in Judah and Jerusalem. Now, I don’t know about the rate of inflation or of unemployment, or the cost of housing, but the nation was severely threatened by the surrounding nations. Their time of flourishing independence was gone. They had to rely on nearby superpowers for protection from their enemies, paying them tribute and submitting to restrictions. It may not have been unlike a young couple whose days of footloose adventure have fallen behind them due to the responsibilities of parenthood; the longing after days gone by and the waning of any energetic hope that things will soon get easier.
Isaiah injected a much needed reminder of how blessed God’s chosen people were. “Rise, shine, for your light has come and the glory of the LORD has risen upon you.” They had received the promise that the Messiah would be born to them. God had promised and He keeps His Word. It was more certain than even a marriage proposal leading up to the day of the wedding. In the dark days of the people, oppressed and fearful, there was a light of good news. The Messiah was coming.
I remember a few months after the invasion of Ukraine by Russia, when things were very dark and uncertain, one of our pastors there posted pictures of a couple getting married; and what an impact that had. In the midst of the dark days of war and uncertainty there was a spark of light and joy. And as the war continues people continue to get married, children continue to be born, our pastors and church workers arrive with a van load of groceries and diapers and medical kits, showing that the people have not been forgotten by their brothers and sisters in Christ or by their heavenly Father. There is still reason to rise and shine. Light comes.
For Judah and Jerusalem, the light was the good news of an amazing grace of God that was completely incomprehensible. It was something so amazing and unexpected that, if believed, it could lighten the hearts of those in the deepest darkness. The good news was not just that a Saviour was coming for them, but that the nations that oppressed them and those they relied upon like a crutch, would come to them bringing gifts because of the glory of the LORD in their midst. Instead of demanding tribute, the nations would offer their treasures because of the Saviour who is the glory of God.
When the people were brought back from exile in Babylon about a hundred years later, they received gifts from Babylon and Persia for the rebuilding of the temple in Jerusalem. But this good news preached long before by the prophet Isaiah came to ultimate fulfillment when the magi from afar came to Jerusalem searching for the Christ Child. They had seen a star in the heavens and came to worship the glory of the LORD on earth.
“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” (Matthew 2:10-11).
This same glory of the LORD, Jesus Christ, crucified and risen for the forgiveness of sins, shines in your life and in your home. “Unto us a Child is born. Unto us a Son is given.” The glory of the LORD shines upon you. St. Paul reminded the Christians in Galatia: “For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ” (Galatians 3:27). The glory of the Son of God covers you and shines through you in your home and out into the world.
Like the wise men following the heavenly light to the Christ Child, people are drawn to Him through the light that shines in your life. Especially in the darkest days, they can see the light of Christ shining through you as you live with faith, love, and hope. The nations were drawn to the people of God because they saw them living with the knowledge that God had placed His promise upon them. And they lived each dark day of their existence with faith that the LORD was keeping His promise that a Child would be born, a Son would be given, who would shine the light of the glory of God by bringing life and salvation to His people.
It is not that they were a nation of people with permanent smiles on their faces and a radiant glow in their eyes and a skip in every step. They were tired and strained and worried just like you. But they had the promises of God and every so often they were reminded of them to lighten the darkness. Faithful prophets like Isaiah preached reminders and every once in a while, both in their homes and on the world-wide stage, things were happening that reaffirmed the good promises of their heavenly Father and brought a ray of light into the darkness.
You were drawn to that light. You came to see the Christ as the Child born for you to bring light into the darkness of your dwelling. In Him you find the light of sins forgiven, of hope restored, of joy unbounded. As you live your life of faith in that light, like the people of Isaiah’s day, others will be drawn to such hope and peace to bring them out of the darkness of their despair. The nations will be drawn to it as they see the glory of the LORD shining in you. Your family members will see the glory of God shining in the darkness of daily life: your sins forgiven; your burdens lightened; your hope rekindled; your faith restored.
And amid the daily doldrums of life in this world of toilsome days and sleepless nights, as God leads the nations to you in the light of His Son, you will open the door like Joseph and be amazed time and again at who the Lord is bringing in with gifts and treasures to worship the Child; and all because they saw the light of Christ shining on you with His grace and mercy.
The peace of God, which passes all understanding, keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.