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Posted: January 7, 2011 12:00 a.m.

Scharf: See the Light

Happy Epiphany!

I know that greeting isn’t as popular as "Merry Christmas" or "Happy New Year," but it is a big day.

Immediately following the 12 days of Christmas, Epiphany is a day (Jan. 6) when the church celebrates the fact that God has shown us his love. He’s revealed (that’s what the word "Epiphany" means) to us who he is and what he’s done for us.

So Epiphany is a day when the church remembers the wise men that saw the star in the East and went to find that newborn king.

And as we think about God’s Word in Isaiah 60 today, I pray that we see the light, too.

It makes all the difference.

If you want all the background information, you can look up the full sermon online, but I’ll condense it here.

Long story short: The people of Israel were in darkness, politically, personally, and especially spiritually. So God tells them to "Arise, shine, for your light has come" (Isaiah 60:1). He tells them that he’s sending light to break their darkness.

Think of how powerful a picture that is. If you’ve ever taken a tour of a cave and they’ve turned off the lights, where you can actually feel the darkness, can you imagine if you didn’t have the hope that they’d turn the lights back on so you can get out?

If you’ve ever been out camping at night on a cloudy night without the light of the moon or stars, can you imagine if you didn’t know where you were, or didn’t have a flashlight?

If you’ve ever seen real darkness, you know how much we need the light; you know what light can do.

God isn’t talking about physical darkness when he says in verse 2: "Darkness covers the earth, thick darkness the people." You know what he’s talking about, don’t you? It’s the thick darkness of sin, of self-absorption, of shame; of depression, desolation, despair.

You know that darkness. You don’t have to be in a cave to feel hopeless. You don’t have to be out in the woods to feel lost.

It is only when you realize just how dark things are that you can appreciate the light. For as many excuses as we try to make, for all the blame we want to pass, the reality is that all of that junk is the result of the mistakes made by the person looking back at me in the mirror. Once we appreciate that, then, and only then, can we appreciate this light breaking on us.

Our text says: "Nations will come to your light, and kings to the brightness of your dawn."

This light is something attractive, something that everyone should want to see if they could really see it. It brought the Wise Men on a monumental journey. It has brought us just as far.

In that child they went to see in Bethlehem is our salvation. God became man to pay for our sins, to die in our place, to really remove all the sin and shame and guilt. So now the despair can’t exist knowing that we have an eternity of heaven in front of us. Now the stress diminishes as our "big" problems don’t seem so big when we remember God’s incredible love for us.

One of the biggest thrills of my job is seeing that light dawn on someone for the first time, or seeing them see it again after years of it being shaded. That light shines, whether it is the unbeliever who sees forgiveness for the first time, or the one who has called themselves a Christian for decades that finally understands that our relationship with God is based not on our obedience, but on his grace.

Suddenly, everything has changed.

Because this light, once it has shined in the darkness, absolutely fills our hearts. Our text says: "Then you will look and be radiant, your heart will throb and swell with joy; the wealth on the seas will be brought to you, to you the riches of the nations will come."

The light is there for all to see. So see it! And it will produce a reaction in you.

It moved the wise men literally hundreds of miles and spiritually even farther, causing them to give the best gifts they had to a baby. I’m excited to see what that light will do for you. Open up your Bible and see the light. Come join your fellow Christians and grow in your appreciation for that light — and you’ll be amazed at what happens as He fills your heart.

 

Rev. Jonathan Scharf is pastor of Abiding Grace Lutheran Church in Covington. Full sermons and more information can be found at www.abidinggrace.com.

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