SERMON TEXT BELOW
Immanuel Lutheran Church, Hamilton, Ohio
Pastor Kevin Jud
January 2, 2022
Isaiah 60:1–6, Ephesians 3:1–12, Matthew 2:1–12
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“Arise, shine, for your light has come, and the glory of the Lord has risen upon you.” To whom is God giving this command? Arise, shine! As we let the Scriptures do the talking, we find out it is Zion. Isaiah 60:14 (ESV) 14 … they shall call you the City of the Lord, the Zion of the Holy One of Israel.” In the Old Testament Zion refers specifically to Mt. Zion in Jerusalem and generally to Jerusalem and to all Israel.
“Arise, shine, for your light has come.” Zion is the recipient of these words. Now, given that this is prophecy for the future, this means that Zion must also be understood in New Testament terms. God is using Old Testament language here to speak New Testament realities. Standing on this side of the manger and the cross and the empty tomb, just who is Zion? Answer: We are! The new Israel. The Church. God’s holy Church is spiritual Zion. As God’s Church, we are being commanded to arise and shine, for our Light has come. Jesus has comes; our Savior, the very Light of the World has come in the flesh. With the coming of our Lord and Savior in the flesh, the glory of Yahweh has been revealed and made known. God so loved the whole world that He gave His only-begotten Son. In Christ, God’s glory has been “epiphanized,” that is, manifested and made known for all to see. We see God’s glory in Jesus.
And how do we shine forth? Why do we shine forth is probably the better question. We shine forth as a light unto the world, not with our own light, but with the Light of Christ, for He is the Light of the world. His Light, implanted in us in Baptism, implanted in us by means of His Word and His sacraments, shines forth through us. We have this Word and Promise of Christ. We are the lamp that He uses to shine this Light—His light—into the darkness. Apart from Christ and His Word there is nothing but darkness; deep darkness; unbelief and death.
The light shines in the darkness. The Lord desires the death of no man, this is why He uses us to make His life-giving Light shine. Jesus has come to forgive sins and conquer death. And it is here that we see this beautiful imagery of true worldwide, Christ-centered mission taking place, already being foretold 740 years before the birth of Jesus. This Light of Christ, shining forth in the darkness; shining forth through us, draws nations and peoples from every tribe, every tongue, every place, near and far. They are drawn, not to us, but to Christ, who shines forth through us. Even kings and rulers will come into this Light and bow down to the Lord of lords and King of kings.
Our Lord commands us to lift up our eyes and look around at all that He is doing. His ways work. His means work! He works through simple words, water, bread and wine. We don’t always believe that though, do we? We don’t always trust the power of the Gospel. We don’t always trust God’s Word and Sacraments to produce fruit. We can get distracted by the things of the world. We can start to believe that there is a better way. We can lose focus as to why this church and school exist. We can be tempted to focus on something other than the light of Christ. Why? Because we sometimes think we need to help God out. We want a new and improved wheel; a better mousetrap; something new that will produce more success in ways that the world measures success. There is a great temptation to redefine Church according to the ways of the world.
The light shines in the darkness. The Lord desires the death of no man, this is why He uses us to make His life-giving Light shine. Jesus has come to forgive sins and conquer death.
I am not one who is big on mission statements, but there is value in ensuring that we stay focused on the main thing. We have been working on a ministry plan for the coming years which had gotten started and then interrupted by COVID. Our working mission statement draft is “United in the Good News of Christ, we live together in love by caring for each other, and by welcoming all to repentance and forgiveness.”
We are going to reignite this ministry plan effort at a congregational lunch gathering on January 24. We want to get as many Immanuel members together to look to the future and seek God’s will to best do what God has called us to do. Arise, shine, for your light has come. How can Immanuel Lutheran Church and School best use all we have been given to shine the light of Christ in the church, in the school, in this community and throughout the world?
Isaiah 60:4a (ESV) 4 Lift up your eyes all around, and see; they all gather together, they come to you;” God Himself tells us that all these nations and peoples are gathering together in the Light; the Light of Christ. And yes, we should see this and be all the more radiant. Our hearts should thrill and exult, for the Light of Yahweh is giving life to all peoples, and He’s using us to accomplish this great and mighty feat. “Lift up your eyes and see.” Peoples are coming from all over; from the coastlands and the seas, from all over and afar, bringing the abundance of their offerings to the Lord; bringing their sacrifices of praise and thanksgiving into His holy Zion.
On our last couple of trips to Germany we worshipped at Trinity Lutheran Church in Berlin on New Year’s Eve. Trinity is a church that is overflowing with people from Iran and Afghanistan who are coming to Trinity to learn about Jesus who is the light of the world. They learn about Jesus and are baptized into Christ. They are brought from the domain of darkness into the light of the Lord. These people travel great distances to get to a church where they can hear the true Gospel of Jesus Christ. It is our calling also to be a church and school that preaches and teaches the truth of God’s Word and shines the light of Christ in the darkness of this world. We rejoice to be able to shine the light of Christ. We preach and teach the Good News of forgiveness of sins through the life, death and resurrection of Jesus. We baptize and teach and make disciples of Jesus by shining His light.
Our Lord goes on to say that this worldwide coming to the Light of Christ will be so profound that we will be covered up in camels. Again, our Lord is using Old Testament terminology to speak of New Testament realities. Believing people from all over the world—pilgrims—will come to Christ, and their means of transportation will cover over us; that’s how great and efficacious this Light of Christ is. The Good News of Jesus has spread throughout the world and many now have the light. Our focus is to continue to always shine the light of Christ into the darkness even when the darkness rejects the light.
We hear the part about gold and frankincense, and immediately think of the Magi coming to Christ. This is referring to the Magi, but it’s not only referring to the Magi. These Magi; these wise men from the east, are just the tip of the iceberg. These Magi are the first Gentiles who come to bask and worship in the Light of Christ. These Magi came and did what we do today—behold the Good News of Yahweh and to sing His praises. These Magi did what all of God’s people in Christ have always done. They went back out into the darkness, full of Christ’s Light, singing the praises of Yahweh, proclaiming His Good News, standing tall in that darkness as ones who’ve been raised up in Christ, letting His Light shine forth through them. That was just the beginning. The Light of Christ has been shining forth throughout the world for 2,000 years.
Arise and shine, for your Light has come. The glory of the Lord has risen upon you. This is our truth, right here and right now. May your hearts, filled with the Light of Christ, be radiant and thrill and exult in the reality of Immanuel, God is with us, now, and to the end of the age. Arise, shine, for your light has come! Amen.