GRACE NOTES: See the Light

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

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.

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