Third Sunday after the Epiphany

The Light of Christ

The theme of the Season of Epiphany is moving from darkness to light. From today’s appoint4ee prophecy in Isaiah:

The people who walked in darkness
have seen a great light;

those who lived in a land of deep darkness–
on them light has shined.

You have multiplied the nation,
you have increased its joy;

they rejoice before you
as with joy at the harvest,
as people exult when dividing plunder.

For the yoke of their burden,
and the bar across their shoulders,
the rod of their oppressor,
you have broken as on the day of Midian.   (Isaiah 9:2-4)

Light brings freedom. The One who restores our freedom was coming into the world:

When Jesus heard that John had been arrested, he withdrew to Galilee. He left Nazareth and made his home in Capernaum by the sea, in the territory of Zebulun and Naphtali, so that what had been spoken through the prophet Isaiah might be fulfilled:

“Land of Zebulun, land of Naphtali,
on the road by the sea, across the Jordan, Galilee of the Gentiles—

the people who sat in darkness
have seen a great light,

and for those who sat in the region and shadow of death
light has dawned.”

From that time Jesus began to proclaim, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near.”   (Matthew 4:12-17)

The light had dawned. The prophecy was being fulfilled by Jesus. Only Jesus was qualified to fulfill the prophecy because Jesus was and is the light. In him, there is no darkness at all.

We can better understand the person and ministry of Jesus when we examine biblical passages extolling the light. The world was formed by light. We read in Genesis:

When God began to create the heavens and the earth, the earth was complete chaos, and darkness covered the face of the deep, while a wind from God swept over the face of the waters. Then God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light. And God saw that the light was good, and God separated the light from the darkness.   (Genesis 1:1-4)

Light is the only reality. Darkness is just the absence of light. All that God has created has come from light. We are beings of light. Let us look at the prologue of the Gospel of John:

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came into being through him, and without him not one thing came into being. What has come into being in him was life, and the life was the light of all people. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overtake it.   (John 1:1-5)

Jesus was with God from the beginning. He was the agent of creation. Hs light is our life. Darkness is death. Satan, Lucifer, the light bearer, wanted to set himself above light, but it was impossible. His attempt cast him into a dark prison.

Humankind has sinned and succumbed to darkness. Satan duped us into thinking that we could live outside of God’slight. As did Satan, we rebelled against God. This has greatly diminished our light. When our light is diminishing we are dying.

We could only be restored by the refreshment of light. Reading further from John:

There was a man sent from God whose name was John. He came as a witness to testify to the light, so that all might believe through him. He himself was not the light, but he came to testify to the light. The true light, which enlightens everyone, was coming into the world.     (John 1:6-9)

Jesus is the light that enlightens everyone. He gives life to everyone. The psalmist wrote:

The Lord is my light and my salvation;
whom then shall I fear?
the Lord is the strength of my life;
of whom then shall I be afraid?   (Psalm 27:1)

Jesus is calling us to himself. He is calling us to the light. How do we respond? We either come to the light or hide in darkness. In John’s Gospel, we read:

And this is the judgment, that the light has come into the world, and people loved darkness rather than light because their deeds were evil. For all who do evil hate the light and do not come to the light, so that their deeds may not be exposed. But those who do what is true come to the light, so that it may be clearly seen that their deeds have been done in God.   (John 3:19-21)

When we hide in darkness we are hiding from the truth. That makes us in bondage to darkness. Dark thoughts rule us. They govern our lives. And they steal our joy because they make us feel ashamed and isolated. This is how Satan wants us to feel. In this way, he can control, manipulate, and discourage us.

To gain freedom from this bondage we must stand fully in the light. We must stand naked before God. We need to surrender everything to God. In doing so, everything about us will be exposed. We will. e standing before the Word of God. Jesus is the light, but he is also the Word-made-flesh. God’s Word is truth. Jesus prayed to the Father for his disciples:

Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth.   (John 17:17)

Standing fully in the light, we see all of our faults. We see all that is in our hearts and souls. What God sees he must judge. How do we dare to stand there? But stand there we must if we want to be set free.

The good news of the Gospel of Jesus Christ is that he stands in our place, for all who have come to the light. God, the Father, looks at Jesus and not us. That is how we stand in the light. We need to blood of Jesus to cleanse us from all our sins. The Apostle Paul wrote:

For the message about the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.   (1 Corinthians 1:18)

We need the power of God. Returning to the prologue from John’s Gospel:

 He was in the world, and the world came into being through him, yet the world did not know him. He came to what was his own,[ and his own people did not accept him. But to all who received him, who believed in his name, he gave power to become children of God, who were born, not of blood or of the will of the flesh or of the will of man, but of God.   (John 1:10-13)

Light is life. Light is power. To receive that power we must continually stand before the Lord. We must continually stand in the light. Whatever God exposes in us he transposes. He takes care to do what we cannot do. The Apostle Paul wrote:

 For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.   (2 Corinthians 4:6)

Let us not look at our circumstances in life. Let us look on the face of Jesus.

Our ministry is to reflect the light of Christ to the world. Jesus said:

“You are the light of the world. A city built on a hill cannot be hid. People do not light a lamp and put it under the bushel basket; rather, they put it on the lampstand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven.   (Matthew 5:14-16)/blockquote>

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Filed under Epiphany, homily, Jesus, lectionary, liturgical preaching, liturgy, preaching, Revised Common Lectionary, sermon, sermon development, Year A

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