Immanuel Lutheran Church

Sermon

Epiphany

"Arise and shine in the Light of the Lord"

Isaiah 60:1, 2

January 8, 2017

What does Epiphany mean? Ah, it's another of those church words we're familiar with but are hard-pressed to define. Epiphany means a revealing. It's kind of a kitchen word. How's that? It's when you take the lid off a pot to see what's cooking inside. When the lid is lifted, the contents are revealed.

Epiphany today is the revealing of the Messiah to the Gentiles. This is important. Up until now, the Jews were the focal point of God's prophecies and revelations. The promises of God were pretty much exclusively channeled to them and through them. Now, with the coming of the Magi, the promises of God and His Messiah would be for all people.

The prophet Isaiah explained it long ago. Isaiah 60:1-2.

Arise, shine, for your light has come, and the glory of the Lord has risen upon you. For behold, darkness shall cover the earth, and thick darkness the peoples; but the Lord will arise upon you, and his glory will be seen upon you.

Here's a question for you. How is the love of God being revealed through us? We know how it is revealed to us but how is it revealed through us? Since the Holy Spirit works through the Word and the sacraments, we have become His means of reaching the world with the Gospel. The Holy Spirit works through us. It is for this reason that the church is not some sort of exclusive club. We're not supposed to hide the treasures of the Gospel. These treasures are to be revealed to the world.

The Lord fully intends that His blessings should not only flow to us but also through us to others. Yet, it seems that we have a real challenge in reaching our modern, secular society. Surprisingly, this isn't just our problem. It was also a problem with the people during the time of Isaiah. Although they were God's chosen people, the Lord's blessings didn't seem to reach much beyond the faithful few.

Listen to the words of the Lord through Isaiah a few paragraphs before our text for today. These words are directed to the Jews who has received the promises and blessings of the Lord, yet had neglected to put them into action.

Isaiah 58:6-9. "Is not this the fast that I choose: to loose the bonds of wickedness, to undo the straps of the yoke, to let the oppressed go free, and to break every yoke?

Is it not to share your bread with the hungry and bring the homeless poor into your house; when you see the naked, to cover him, and not to hide yourself from your own flesh? Then shall your light break forth like the dawn, and your healing shall spring up speedily; your righteousness shall go before you; the glory of the Lord shall be your rear guard. "Then you will call, and the Lord will answer; You will cry, and He will say, 'Here I am.'

The goodness of the Lord is revealed through His people. Theirs is the light that shines as the witness to the power and presence of the Lord. More specifically, the light of the Lord is to be revealed in and through His people. This brings us back to our question. How is the light of the Lord being revealed in, among and through us?

The church had its origins in the glory days of Rome. The world of the Roman Empire was just as decadent and self-centered as is our world. There was little respect for human life. There was little compassion. There was blood lust. Theirs was not acted out in graphic video games but in the gladiatorial arenas where it was a bloody fight to the death. People were preoccupied with their own pursuits of pleasure. The headlines and news of today would not have surprised or shocked the people of ancient Rome.

Then, enter the first Christians. The early church was known for its acts of mercy. Early Christians were counter-cultural. They gathered the exposed infants, which was illegal and punishable by death, and took them into their homes. They took care of the sick, the infirm and the elderly. One of their pagan detractors thought they were a menace but admitted that they loved one another.

In their world collapsing into a decadent spiritual, moral and personal darkness, the Christians were a light. They were living the words of Jesus, "In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven." [Matthew 5:16]

How is our light shining to the world? Think of the light shining through the stained glass windows at night. It's a warm glow that is cast into the outside darkness. People on the outside can see the Gospel in the glass. We are like the stained glass. The light of the Lord shines through us to the world. We bring the Gospel to those sitting in spiritual darkness.

Jesus tells us, "You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden." [Matthew 5:14] How will this light shine through us in the coming year?

Matthew is the only Gospel writer who mentions the visit of the Magi. Although his Gospel is directed primarily to a Jewish audience, it ends with the Great Commission. Beginning on the day of Pentecost, the Gospel was taken from Judea and Samaria to the ends of the earth. Today, throughout the world, the church proclaims that Jesus Christ is Lord.

As we prepare for the annual meeting, we need to ask ourselves what will be our mission outreach for this year. How will our light shine into our community and the world? How will we be like the stained glass shining the Gospel into the darkness? Beginning at our front door, as we leave this building, we enter the mission field. People near to us need to hear the wonderful news about Jesus just as surely as do people far away.

Although we are remembering the visit of the Magi to the infant Jesus, He didn't remain an infant. Next week we will remember His baptism in the Jordan by John the Baptist. Our Lord's destiny was the cross. His life was the embodiment of mercy and forgiveness. He reached out not only to the religious Jews but to the diseased, the lame, the disenfranchised and the Gentiles. He continues to do that through us. He comes to us in the Word and in the Sacraments. He comes to cause His light to shine in, among and through us to the glory of His holy name. Amen.


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01/31/2016
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12/27/2015
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11/22/2015
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10/25/2015
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09/27/2015
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August
08/30/2015
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07/26/2015
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06/28/2015
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05/31/2015
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02/15/2015
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January
01/25/2015
01/25/2015
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01/11/2015
01/04/2015

December
12/28/2014
12/21/2014
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12/07/2014
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11/23/2014
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11/02/2014
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10/12/2014
10/05/2014
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09/28/2014
09/21/2014
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09/07/2014
August
08/31/2014
08/24/2014
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08/03/2014
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05/11/2014
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04/06/2014
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03/30/2014
03/23/2014
03/16/2014
03/02/2014
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02/02/2014
January
01/26/2014
01/19/2014
01/12/2014
01/05/2014