Isaiah 60: 1-6 NRSV
60 Arise, shine; for your light has come,
and the glory of the LORD has risen upon you.
2 For darkness shall cover the earth,
and thick darkness the peoples;
but the LORD will arise upon you,
and his glory will appear over you.
3 Nations shall come to your light,
and kings to the brightness of your dawn.
4 Lift up your eyes and look around;
they all gather together, they come to you;
your sons shall come from far away,
and your daughters shall be carried on their nurses’ arms.
5 Then you shall see and be radiant;
your heart shall thrill and rejoice,[a]
because the abundance of the sea shall be brought to you,
the wealth of the nations shall come to you.
6 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 proclaim the praise of the LORD.
How many of you here today have been to a concert? I remember going to my first concert when I was in college. Yes, I’m that old – old enough to remember that concerts were just getting popular when I was in college. Before they were popular I remember thinking – why would I spend money for a ticket to go see a band when I could just listen to their music on my record player at home? See how old I am?
Well, my first concert was a rock-n-roll concert and I got to go for free because I worked at campus security. I got to sit right in front of the band – at the foot of the stage on a table used to keep the rest of the crowd back. Most of the time, I was under the table because the fans were crazy!
But I was hooked. I could have reached out and touched the band members. It was fabulous. But the thing that amazed me most about the concert was at the end. Now this wasn’t my first outing to a big event. I’d been to see Billy Graham when I was 16. And I knew what a standing ovation was. But what happened at the concert that night – I had never seen.
Yes, they stood up, clapped, screamed, yelled…but then something amazing happened. Everyone lights a lighter. I had no idea what was going on when I saw this happen! The entire arena was lit up! Everyone was holding them high above their heads. It was a signal to the band that the crowd wanted more. And sure enough, the band comes back and sings for another 20 min. or so.
Whoever thought of that was a genius. That such a little light could have such a big influence. Well, today, they still do the whole light thing – but they can no longer use lighters – they use glow sticks or cell phones. And while this may convey the same message, it doesn’t seem nearly as effective to me.
But it is light – shining in the darkness – calling back the band. Stating in no uncertain terms that the band was awesome and they couldn’t wait to hear more.
What if we felt that way about our faith? What if we let our lights shine so brightly that Jesus knew that we couldn’t get enough of him and that we wanted to know more! What if our lights were shining so bright that everyone around us knew that we believed that being a Christian was the most awesome thing ever!?
Think about that for a few moments while I tell you what was going on in our text for today…
The Book of Isaiah is broken up in to 3 sections. Today, we have read from section 3. This final section is often called the “Book of Comfort” because in it the prophet Isaiah tells the people that they will be released from their captivity. They had been in captivity to the Babylonians for so many hundreds of years, they had given up hope. Darkness seemed to surround them. It even seemed that God had abandoned them.
Try to think about how they must have felt! The Hebrews that were left had been born in captivity! They knew no other world except from the stories passed down by their ancestors.
And now, Isaiah brings them some hope. He tells them that they will be restored as a nation! He tells them that one will rule over them – a righteous servant – who will extend salvation to all people on earth. The light that Isaiah talks about is a sign of the freedom they hope for AND it is a hope that they will also become a light to all nations.
That was God’s purpose for his people – but they had forgotten that. They were supposed to be a light – shining so brightly that all people came to know God, that all people would become a part of God’s family.
Isaiah is not only bringing them hope, but reminding them that they are the hope of all nations – even in captivity!
Isaiah gives these people such good news – probably the best news they had had in years! You will be blessed! You will be set free! But it will be according to what you do with the light that is within you!
Over the years that they had been in captivity, they had just stopped shining. The light – God’s light – that was always there with them, within them, died. It died to the world, it died to captivity, it died to hopelessness.
Have you ever had your light die or be snuffed out by circumstances?
I certainly have. There are probably many life experiences that we all have that threaten to snuff out our light. When my light was gone, when I had given up all hope for living, my friends could see that my light was gone. It was them who got me the help that I needed. It was them who reminded me that God had never left me and that God’s light was still inside somewhere.
I had been living in captivity to my circumstances. I was choosing to let my brokenness, my hopelessness put out the light of Christ that was within me. What I had forgotten, just like the people of Judah, was that God’s light is not a flicker that can be easily extinguished. NO! God’s light is eternal.
Today is Epiphany Sunday – when we are reminded that Jesus came into our broken, dark world so that everyone could see God’s light. And Jesus didn’t keep that light to himself – no one can! He offered it to us, for us to take into the world for all to see, for all to know.
When the wise men finally got to see the baby Jesus, they recognized God’s light. They had followed this star for two whole years and immediately they knew that Jesus was different. A King among all Kings.
As Jesus grew, people knew he was different! They could see within him hope, love, mercy, grace, wisdom. Things that for years people had kept to themselves!
Arise, Shine! Isaiah says. FOR YOUR LIGHT HAS COME!
Can you see it? Or are you living as though the light is out? The Gospel of John says that when the Word of God became flesh and lived among us, it was then that we could see ‘the glory of a father’s only son, full of grace and truth.’
Grace and truth – the GLORY OF GOD! The light of God through the Son.
The people of Judah could no longer see it. The people of Judah no longer let it shine in their own lives.
A thousand years later, when Jesus was born, the world was also a dark place. Herod, the reigning king at the time of Jesus’ birth had had his brother-in-law killed, his uncle, and his wife. And he didn’t stop there! He had all infants 2 years old and under all over the land killed in an attempt to kill Jesus.
Darkness is going to come! BUT if we focus on God’s glory – on the light – even in the dark times of our lives, times of disappointments, failures, temptations, tension, chaos, financial problems, even depression – Jesus will throw light into the darkness.
The light cannot be put out by anything we humans can do to one another in the darkness!
A new year is here – full of God’s marvelous light! Are you going to look for it – in others, within yourself? Are you going to make this the year that you allow the light to heal you, to make you whole again, to restore your relationship with God? Is this the year when you’ll take whatever it is that you have put over the eternal light within you off – letting it shine brightly into the darkness?
Is this the year that you’ll hold that light high – stating emphatically that Jesus IS the one you cannot get enough of? Will your light show others who you are in Christ Jesus?
This Little Light of Mine – I’m gonna let it shine….
NATIONS WILL COME TO THIS LIGHT! But they have to see it first! KINGS TO THE BRIGHTNESS OF ITS RISING! Is your light that bright?
May 2013 be the year that we all allow Christ’s light to shine more brightly each and every day as we draw closer to God and to one another.