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  • Writer's pictureRev. Chris Brademeyer

Behold! The Light of Lights!

Your Light Has Come

The Epiphany of the Lord – 1/6/2024

Isaiah 60:1-6

Rev. Christopher W. Brademeyer

 

That portion of God’s holy Word for consideration this evening is our Old Testament lesson from the book of the prophet Isaiah in the sixtieth chapter with special emphasis on verses one through three which read as follows:

 

“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. And nations shall come to your light, and kings to the brightness of your rising.”[1]

 

Thus far the Scriptures.

 

In the Name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

 

                The Epiphany of the Lord commemorates the visit of the first Gentiles to acknowledge the Kingship of our Lord Jesus, that is, the Magi. Even more than this, the Magi gave our Lord worship, acknowledging His divinity, that is, the reality of Him being God in the flesh. These Magi were likely from the area of what is now Iraq and Iran. Historically, this area was the seat of power of the Babylonian Empire, which conquered the Kingdom of Judah and put God’s people into exile nearly six hundred years prior.

                When we think about the magi, it is common to imagine rich astrologer kings who learned of the important birth of Christ simply by keeping watch on the heavens. Likely, the magi had some means of wealth at their disposal so as to fund their journey from the area of modern Iraq or Iran to the city of Bethlehem, a distance of somewhere around 840 miles. At an average walking pace of 20 to 30 miles a day, the journey would have lasted at least 42 days. This is all to say that such a journey would have been expensive and required a certain amount of leisure and money that would only have been available to wealthy men.

                At any rate, these men were not simply astrologers. The word “magi” was used for magicians and sorcerers as, for example, of Simon Magus in the book of Acts.[2] The reason for this is that priests and religious scholars of the religions of the area of what is now Iraq and Iran were called “Magos,”which is the singular of a more familiar word, Magi. In other words, these men were likely learned in religious texts and philosophies as well as practitioners of various forms of sorcery, such as soothsaying and the like. And they would not have been ignorant of the Hebrew Scriptures either. Access to the Old Testament would have been likely given that the nation of Judah was sent into exile among their people around the time of the destruction of Jerusalem.

                In other words, the sign of the star was likely a confirmation of the records of Moses and the prophets which foretold a birth among the Jews of a great Messiah. And while it is likely that the Magi had some familiarity with this prophecy, they still were unaware that the prophet Micah foretold that Jesus would be born in the city of Bethlehem.[3] Exactly which books from the Bible, if any, were available to them is purely speculative. At any rate, there was enough familiarity with the prophecy of the Messiah, born to the nation of Israel, that the coming of the star was understood for what it is: a sign that Jesus Christ had come into this world.

                So the men came to see Jesus. They came from the darkness of their superstition and false religion to see Him who is the light of the world. They came because the star in the heavens was a sign that the very Light of the world had come. And so they did, thereby fulfilling the prophecy recorded for us in the sixtieth chapter of Isaiah the prophet.

                This Lord, the King of the Jews, the very Light of lights shone in the dark and, as the Apostle John reminds us, the light does not overcome it.[4] The Light who is Christ the Lord dispels all darkness and gloom, dissipating the shadows of sin, death, and the devil. This Lord reveals many things. His light illumines the truth, showing both sin and grace. His light not only uncovers the depths of our shame but shows forth the great heights of the mercy of God.

                Let me explain: the truth of the matter is that the Lord Jesus came into this world to save us from sin, death, and the devil. Being human beings as we are in this era of sin, we by nature seek to avoid God and reject Him and His work. So, the Lord shines forth His truth to show us two things. Firstly, He reveals to us how deep our sins are. In other words, God gave us the Law in order to first and foremost reveal our need for a Savior by showing us the futility of trying to earn or work our way into God’s good graces. And He shows us this now because He wants to rob us of comfort or to make us feel bad about ourselves, but so that we would stop looking to things which do not and cannot save us. No matter what we might want to be the case, the truth is the things we do of our own accord are not able to give us salvation, no matter how impressive or beneficial to those around us they may be.

                Secondly, Jesus shows the heights of the love of God for us and the great bounty of His grace and mercy. For in saving us, God the Father sent His Son to suffer and die a shameful, cursed death[5] on our behalf. And by this death, God revealed in a definitive way how deep His love and concern for us is that He did not even withhold His beloved Son and in so doing, we have been given reprieve from sin, death, and Satan. And such is the lavish grace and mercy of God that He demands nothing of us other than to simply trust in Him. And no matter how many times we have sinned, failed, or gone astray, He always stands ready to bestow His forgiveness and mercy on us again. There are no sins too wretched for God’s mercy, no faults too grave for God to heal. For the Light of Christ has shown into the world, both clearly showing the malady and giving ample light for God to provide the remedy and cure for sin.

                And this light serves as a beacon for the nations, drawing all people to the banner of Christ and the Kingdom of God. This beacon has drawn men, women, and children from every race of man. People of every tone and tongue have entered the Kingdom of God. Every nation is represented, drawn to the Light of lights as a moth to a flame. But unlike the moth, this light was not for their destruction, but for salvation.

                The Magi of old revealed this truth, foretold here by the Prophet Isaiah: even the nations of pagans who had forgotten God’s promises and were foreign to His Name and Kingdom will be drawn together to a higher citizenship than that of mere state in the Kingdom of the coming Messiah. And this, dear friends in Christ, is what we have: light, life, and salvation through Jesus our Lord.

 

In the holy Name of + Jesus. Amen.

 

The peace of God that passes all understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.


[1] English Standard Version

[2] Acts 8:19-24

[3] Micah 5:2

[4] John 1:5

[5] Deuteronomy 21:23

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