a light shines in the darkness

Nativity on Russian Icon

Isaiah 60:1-6
For Sunday, January 6, 2009
Epiphany of the Lord

This passage tells a story about a world in darkness. Yet then there is a summons for the people of God to rise up because the glory of the Lord has risen as a sun over them to dispel the darkness. People from every nation notice the light shining on the people of God and they want light as well. As they come prosperity and blessing abound. This is the story of God reconciling the peoples of the earth to himself. As believers, we are part of this story. Our respective local churches are intended to shine like lights in the darkness that will attract interest from all around.

I can attest to the truthfulness of this story on several fronts. First, the world is in darkness. I see this in my own city, Milwaukee, in the forms of racial discord, poverty, and unemployment (just to name a few!). Second, the light Isaiah has talked about has dawned in the person of Jesus. The wise men knew this both literally by the star that drew them and figuratively by the import of this person’s coming.

By the way, my 12-year old son Nate pointed out at the family dinner table a few days ago that nowhere in the Bible does it say there were three wisemen. All we know is that there were three gifts. I was glad both that he was listening at youth group and that he could teach me something. As another and related aside, my 6-year old son asked what ‘myrhh’ was. We looked it up on Wikipedia and discovered it’s a resin. But what does it smell like? I ordered some. It smells like the inside of a Russian Orthodox church. It smells like the love of God expressed in the sacrifice Christ made to forgive our sins. It’s a wonderful smell.

The final destination for the light and the people who gather under it is a place called Zion. This will be Jerusalem as it was always intended to be. It will be the Jerusalem above. The church is a present now but not yet movement in the right direction. Given all of this, let us indeed be a light that shines in the darkness as we prosecute the affairs of this fine day.

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