The Lord be with you. And so it begins. Today is the first day of December – there are 24 days left till Christmas, or as they say in the military, 23 and a wakeup. So let the games begin. That’s the way many people in the world today see the winter season. And Advent? What’s that? Oh wait, that’s what people do when that “limited quantity” of specially priced AD items on Black Friday runs out before you get there, so you VENT about the Ad. For many, winter means Christmas, and Christmas starts immediately after Halloween ends. Thanksgiving is just a day to eat enormous portions and store up fuel for the race ahead. It’s like a pit stop on the racetrack – 24 laps to the finish line. Like the stress on the racetrack as all those cars fly by at 130mph on an oval track littered with accidents, car problems, disappointments and despair at the end of the race for those who don’t finish or don’t win. Winter can bring about similar feelings in the amped up and ramped up reality of four holidays couched into a forty day period. It is amazing, and sad too, that such a wonderful time of year can create disharmony, depression and distress. It is so commonplace today that there is even a disorder attached to those conditions that bring about this common malady – it is called S.A.D.Seasonal Affective Disorder.S.A.D. - also known as winter depression or winter blues -is an emotional disorder that some people experience in the darker months of the year. Those who get S.A.D. have little energy and quickly become very depressed. Additional symptoms include a tendency to overeat or not eat enough – both of which can cause more depression, more sadness. Studies show that depression is closely linked to divorce, separation and the death of a loved one. Sadly, women are 70% more likely than men to experience depression. Even more sadly, depression is linked to more than two-thirds of the 35,000 suicides in the U.S. every year. When we’re depressed, it’s tempting to self-medicate with too much alcohol, drugs, sexual escapades, more work and under the table business deals. You name it and people have probably tried it. And we all know how and where those quick-fixes, sweet deals and after- effects of uppers and downers end up -with more depression, even addiction. Into this darkness Isaiah boldly announces, “Arise, shine, for you 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.” (IS.60:1-2) What an awesome burst of light! In fact, Isaiah employs such light imagery throughout chapter 60 of His book. The word “light,” appears seven times in the chapter. Other “light” words are as follows: “shine” (Is 60: 1,2,3); “brightness” (Is 60:3), “be radiant” (Is. 60:5); “splendor”: (Is. 60:7, 19); “beautify”(Is.60:7,9,13); “glory”(Is. 60: 1,2,13)“glorious”(Is. 60:13); “sun”: (Is.60:19,20) and “moon”(Is.60: 19,20). What a brilliant light show Isaiah invokes with the words in this chapter! Butwith all that light it can and still does get dark, very, very dark. Isaiah knows that as well.Isaiah 59 is one of the darkest chapters in the Bible. Words describing darkness, depression and death appear 17 times in the first 8 verses! 17 times! The list includes iniquity, sin, defilement, deceit, wickedness, disorder, vanity, turmoil, violence, evil, destruction, devastation and crooked. The next verses go on to say that justice, salvation and righteousness are far, far away. Isaiah 59:16 then announces that God is appalled because there is no one to intervene. Talk about something that is sad. Dear friends in Christ, you and I live in the world of Isaiah 59. It gets dark, very, very dark sometimes in and around us. Then, just when we think it can’t get any worse, any darker, who shows up? The Prince of Darkness, pointing his accusing finger at us, mocking our feeble discipleship, our failed relationships and our fatal attractions. But then, still in the dark, you have the Light! “Arise, shine, for your light has come!” Isaiah predicts and prepares the way for an even greater light show. That’s the message of Christ’s birth. “An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them” (Luke2:9) Simeon celebrates. “A light to lighten the Gentiles and the glory of your people Israel”(Lk 2:32). The Magi marvel, “We have seen His star in the east and have come to worship Him”(Mt. 2:2) What a dazzling light! God enters the world on the floor of a stable, through the womb of a teenager, in the presence of a carpenter. Jesus is the Light of the world who took on flesh so that He might take you into His arms, heal your hurts, forgive your sin and destroy your darkness. In Him there is blazing, brilliant, eternal light. James 1:5 tells us, “The light shines in the darkness, but the darkness has not overcome it.” Note the verb “shine.”It is a present tense verb. John doesn’t write “the light shone” or “the light will shine.” No. John writes, “The light shines in the darkness.” In your darkness; in your deep darkness; in the darkest hours of your life, this light shines. “The darkness has not overcome it.” With those words, John prepares us even now at the start Advent, for Good Friday. Talk about dark days! Nails. Blood. Sweat. Tears. Three hours of darkness. And then death. Three days later, though, what happens? The light shines. Present tense! SHINES! The darkness will never overcome Jesus. The darkness will never overcome you. Not even death can extinguish this light! “Christ is risen!” Not risen from sleep. Not risen from confusion. Not risen from stupor or slumber. Not risen in the hearts of His followers. No. none of the above. Christ is risen from the dead – physically, bodily, and most certainly. Stepping forth from the tomb, Jesus radiates life and light! Resurrection light befriends and beckons. It can never be broken. God delivers us from the dominion of darkness and transfers us into the kingdom of light. When our evening comes, the night of death will yield to the dawn of an eternal Easter. Then we will forever shine in divine splendor and bask in God’s eternal glory. “The Lord is my light and my salvation, whom shall I fear?” And there’s more – more light to come! When Christ returns, He promises to take us to the New Jerusalem where, according to Revelation 22:5, “There will be no more night.” There will be no need for the light of a lamp or the light of the sun, for the Lord God Almighty will give all the light we will need. Our best years have not passed. Our biggest moments are not long gone. Death is the first chapter of a story that has no end. No end. Imagine that! We hear about this light. We sing about this light. I even preach about this light. But, because sometimes things hurts so bad, we slip back into the dark, retreat into our depression and despair. Do you remember the movie Field of Dreams? What a great movie. Do you remember the story? Ray Kinsella of Iowa (played by Kevin Costner) turns a cornfield into a baseball field and long dead major league baseball players – including Shoeless Joe Jackson of the Chicago White Socks – show up to play on the field. The problem is, though, that the baseball players are invisible to almost everyone. No one can see them play. So Ray is going bankrupt, much to the disgust of his brother-in-law, Mark. Mark tells Ray, “Ray, you’re going to lose your farm. You build a baseball field and you sit here and stare at nothing.” It can and does seem that dark at times. But suddenly, a traumatic incident changes Mark’s vision and he does a 180, telling Ray that he must not sell the farm. What happened? Mark could now see all the players on the field! Mark was in the dark, but then he saw the light! Mark’s story can be your story as well. How so? “Arise, shine, for your light has come”(Is.60:1) Jesus was born for you. He came to earn forgiveness for every sin, direction at every turn, light for every dark day, and an anchor for every deadly storm. When darkness approaches, think of that beautiful hymn that calls us to walk away from the darkness and to His light: I want to walk as a child of the Light, I want to follow Jesus. God set the stars to give light to the world, the star of my life is Jesus. I want to see the brightness of God, I want to look at Jesus. Clear Sun of Righteousness, shine on my path, and show me the way to the Father. I’m looking for the coming of Christ, I want to be with Jesus. When we have run with patience the race, We shall know the joy of Jesus: Pick up your hymnals. Turn to Hymn 411 and sing the refrain with me. (organist) In Him there is no darkness at all. The night and the day are both alike. The lamb is the light of the city of God. Shine in my heart, Lord Jesus. Jesus is the Light. He is your light in the dark times of life. He will never leave you, never fail you. Jesus is too wise to error, too tender to crush, and too merciful to ever cast us away. Light is God’s good and perfect gift for you. Don’t miss out on it by being swallowed up by darkness. Amen.
Mount Olive Lutheran Church (LCMS) First Sunday in Advent – December 01,2019/ “Arise and Shine” Series – “Rising Light” -Isaiah 60: 1-6 Rev. David Brockhouse/ This sermon is an edited or abbreviate version of an original written for CPH by Dr. Reed Lessing, 2018
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Mt. Olive Lutheran Church - LCMS 3200 W Loop 1604 S San Antonio, TX 78245
Mt. Olive is a congregation of the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod