Your Light Has Come
The Epiphany of our Lord [b] January 6, 2019
1 Arise, shine, for your light has come, and the glory of the LORD has risen upon you. 2 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. 3 And nations shall come to your light, and kings to the brightness of your rising. 4 Lift up your eyes all around, and see; they all gather together, they come to you; your sons shall come from afar, and your daughters shall be carried on the hip. 5 Then you shall see and be radiant; your heart shall thrill and exult, because the abundance of the sea shall be turned to you, the wealth of the nations shall come to you. 6 A multitude of camels shall cover you, the young camels of Midian and Ephah; all those from Sheba shall come. They shall bring gold and frankincense, and shall bring good news, the praises of the LORD.
In the Name of Jesus.
The message of Epiphany, Your Light has come! To those in darkness, Light!
To a world covered in darkness, a world of war, of violence, of neighbor divided against neighbor, Light. Light which shines on all nations, all languages, all peoples and families, a light to enlighten the Gentiles. And this light shines in the darkness and no darkness overcomes it.
So for a moment we think of our world. Divisions at every point. East divided against West. Poor against rich. Upper-class against lower. Southern hemisphere against Northern. Where do we not see division?
And yet there is one point where our world is divided not at all. The most foundational point, where we are, throughout our world, East and West, North and South, poor and rich, all locked in a oneness from which no one can escape.
For there is no distinction; for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.
As people, that’s our unity. Our world puts up an appearance of striving for unity. Unity at the United Nations, even while some nations enslave their own people and would enslave other nations. Unity for our own nation, where any candidate for office knows to speak of bringing all people together for the good of all. Unity for our communities, for our families, who isn’t for unity?
Yet, we are already unified in the ugliest oneness of all: there is no distinction; for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.
So we see a world which appears divided by all the effects of sin—disunified by hatred, racism, envy, covetousness, pride, and all the other outward actions of sin.
But our Lord sees a world of people all sharing equally and fully with one another, a world of every person unified with every other person as sinners.
Into this world, the call of Isaiah goes out:
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.[Isaiah 60:1]
The Light, as the Magi from the East knew, is Jesus, the Son of Mary.
The Light is God coming in the flesh to be with sinners. And not just to be with them, but to be with them in the darkness, in the sin and hatred, the sickness and fear, to be with them in such a way that he binds himself to them and the darkness of their world, taking the sin upon himself.
Has the world ever seen more darkness than when the one innocent Man is intentionally crucified, so that those whose sin he is bearing can watch him die the one and only righteous death the world has ever seen? But this is Light, for it is the removal of the darkness covering all people; it is the forgiveness of all sins; it is the cleansing for every sinner.
But that the Light for the world is Mary’s child, and is this Innocent Man hanging publicly on a cross, is not seen by the world.
The world still sees the sin, the covering of darkness, but the Light is hidden in the flesh and blood of this Man, Jesus.
So now the world is called to the Light. This is the Holy Spirit giving the Gospel to be proclaimed, so that by that Gospel he is calling and gathering sinners into the Church, enlightening them with the forgiveness of all sin.
People before bound together in the unity of sin, all being together covered in the same darkness, are now called into the Church, where they are bound together in the unity of Christ, all brought into the Light and covered in the righteousness of Jesus.
Who is left out of this covering of righteousness? Who is not to be included in the unity of the Church? Isaiah speaks of those called and gathered:
The LORD will arise upon you, and his glory will be seen upon you. And nations shall come to your light, and kings to the brightness of your rising. Lift up your eyes all around, and see; they all gather together, they come to you; your sons shall come from afar, and your daughters shall be carried on the hip. Then you shall see and be radiant; your heart shall thrill and exult, because the abundance of the sea shall be turned to you, the wealth of the nations shall come to you.[Isaiah 60:5]
From every nation, every tribe and language, every division we can even think of, sinners all called out of the darkness into the light, gathered as one in the Church.
Our world cannot now see this.
Neither can we. Not with our eyes of flesh.
It is hidden. It is cloaked.
As on that terrible day the Light was hidden in the Body and Blood of Jesus as he hung on the cross, so even now the Light is hidden, in our own generation of darkness, in the Body and Blood Jesus distributes in the Church.
What the world saw in Mary’s arms was a baby, like so many other babies born every day, Yet, in faith, the Magi from the East saw the Light of the world, God the Son in the flesh.
All the world saw on the cross was just another bleeding man, not unlike so many other convicted criminals, yet, in faith, those gathered around the cross who belonged to Jesus saw the Light of the world, God the Son shedding the blood to atone for all sin.
All the world sees in the Church now is a bunch of people, not unlike every other person on Earth, gathered around what can only be seen by the eye as bread and wine, not unlike any other bread or any other
wine, yet, in faith, those gathered hear the Word and promise of the Lord, and see the Light of the world, God the Son coming amongst them to bring his Body and Blood once crucified, but now abundantly distributed to forgive their sins.
To the Church:
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.[Isaiah 60:2]
The Lord’s glory has arisen upon us; his glory will be seen upon us.
This is Epiphany in the Church, where the Lord gives Light to the world. Not with some sort of light show in the sky, nor some philosophical idea or some political movement promising to unite peoples who are already united in sin, but he gives Light to the world, and it is the Church. It is a bunch of sinners called by the Holy Spirit, united with one another in Baptism, gathered each week to the Body and Blood of forgiveness, enlightened with the Gospel.
It is you and me, shown to the world as Light not because we are somehow more virtuous or valuable, but because we are called out of darkness into the Light, who is Jesus himself, a Light to the nations.
In the Name of Jesus