Blog / Book of the Month / Gospel Light: Epiphany Day - Isaiah 60:1-6, Matthew 2:1-12, Ephesians 3:1-12 / Pastor Ted Giese

Gospel Light: Epiphany Day - Isaiah 60:1-6, Matthew 2:1-12, Ephesians 3:1-12 / Pastor Ted Giese

Gospel Light: Epiphany Day - Isaiah 60:1-6, Matthew 2:1-12, Ephesians 3:1-12 / Pastor Ted Giese

Gospel Light WASCANA Circuit Epiphany Service Hosted by Prince of Peace Lutheran Church Regina - Rev. Ted A. Giese / Isaiah 60:1-6, Matthew 2:1-12, Ephesians 3:1-12

          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.

          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.

          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.

(Isaiah 60:1-6 ESV)

Let us pray: May the words of my mouth and the meditations of all our hearts be acceptable in your sight O Lord. Amen.

Grace peace and mercy to you from God our Father and from our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. Good Christian Friends. There is this camp fire song - many of you will have sung it, maybe even around a camp fire, "This Little Gospel Light of Mine." In brief the lyrics say,

          1) This little Gospel light of mine, I'm going to let it shine.

                                                          Let it shine, all the time, let it shine.

          2) All around the neighbourhood, I'm going to let it shine.

                                                          Let it shine, all the time, let it shine.

          3) Hide it under a bushel? No! I'm going to let it shine.

                                                          Let it shine, all the time, let it shine.

          4) Don't let Satan [blow] it out! I'm going to let it shine.

                                                          Let it shine, all the time, let it shine.

Quickly - the 'Gospel light' in this song is often thought of as the message of Jesus and His good news of Salvation and rescue from sin - or it's also understood as Jesus Himself. In our baptism rite in the church we even have a spot where we focus in on how the Christian has Jesus in them and how they have His light shining out of them into the world. In fact the pastor may light a baptismal candle from the Paschal candle and give it to the newly baptized while singing,

          "Receive this burning light to show that you have received Christ who is the light of the world. Live always in the light of Christ and be ever watchful for His coming that you may meet Him with joy and enter with Him into the marriage feast of the lamb in His kingdom which shall have no end"[1]

Congregations may also quote from Jesus' own words - and here you'll hear words that match up to the camp fire song - Jesus says, “You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house." and now this next part is part we use at Mount Olive, Jesus continues saying, "In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven."[2]

From our readings tonight, as we celebrate the Feast of Epiphany, the language of Light is apparent: Isaiah says, "Arise, shine, for your light has come, and the glory of the LORD has risen upon you." In the Gospel Reading the Magi, "wise men from the east came to Jerusalem, saying, 'Where is He who has been born king of the Jews? For we saw His star when it rose and have come to worship Him.'”[3] And after talking with King Herod and being pointed in the general direction of Bethlehem, which isn't all that far away from Jerusalem by the way, it would take you about 2 hours or so to get there on foot, the wise men saw again "the star that they had seen when it rose, [and it] went before them until it came to rest over the place where the child was." Scripture tells us that, "When they saw the star, they rejoiced exceedingly with great joy. And going into the house they saw the child with Mary His mother, and they fell down and worshiped Him." This light, the light of the that special star, heralded Jesus to the World but a star no matter how bright is not the brightest light. Jesus Himself later in His adulthood said, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”[4] After saying these words the Apostle John in his Gospel tells how Jesus heals a man born blind from birth, a man who had lived in literal darkness his whole life, capping that whole section of the Gospel of John off with Jesus saying, "As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world.”[5]

This is the major theme of the Season of Epiphany - Jesus the Light of the World come to shine on the peoples who sit covered by thick darkness. Jesus is not just for the Jews He's for everyone, for everyone who sits covered by the thick darkness of sin, death, the devil, the world - for everyone who sits covered by the think darkness of their own self. This is where our Epistle lesson comes into play tonight: Paul writing to the Ephesians Christians says that he has been given the task to make this know to the none-Jewish peoples, the gentiles, "that the Gentiles are fellow heirs, members of the same body, and partakers of the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel." Paul calls this a mystery.

Let's think about that campfire song. The purpose of "letting" your Gospel light shine all around the neighbourhood, the reason for making sure that it's not hidden under a bushel? The motivation behind the desire to keep Satan from blowing your Gospel light out! is evangelism. We want the light of Christ to shine in the neighbourhood so that others would know Jesus. We want Jesus to be front and centre unobstructed by the things of the world so that people would know Jesus. We want to shoo the devil away from our Gospel light so that the devil won't be like the birds on the path that Jesus talks about in the parable of the sower when Jesus says, "When anyone hears the word of the kingdom and does not understand it, the evil one comes and snatches away what has been sown in his heart."[6] But here's the catch - That song is all law. And deep down in your heart you know that it's all law because as the song says "I'm going to let it shine, let it shine, all the time, let it shine"  And here's the trouble - As a sinner I don't consistently let the light of Christ shine - the Old Adam in me fights against the light, my original sin which is constantly creeping back up out of the waters of baptism doesn't want the Light of Jesus to shine all the time; because of this I'm often lousy at "letting" the Light of Jesus shine in my neighbourhood; I hide the light of Jesus under the bushel of embarrassment, and political correctness, and the desire to keep things cordial and peaceful, I hide it under the bushel of politeness, I even use friendship or family as a excuse not to tell others. The quaint image of a little red devil blowing out a candle is deceptive - it's more serious than that. If you or I were judged by how well we "let the Light of Christ shine All the time" we'd be in deep dark trouble indeed.

Here's the good news, here's the Gospel Light that comes this Epiphany to shine on you, it's not about you wanting the light of Christ to shine or about you letting it shine, You have no more power to make the Light of Jesus shine in you than the Wise Men had to make the star shine in the deepest darkest void of space. Isaiah says, "Arise, shine, for your light has come," His words are talking about a response. Imagine that you are a reflector on a bike. It will sit in darkness until a light shines on it. A candle will not burn unless it is lit and it will not stay lit without being tended, a flame will only burn if it has fuel. When Jesus says “You are the light of the world." you are, but you are the light of the World because He shines on you. Because He makes you light - you don't make yourself light. If you were able to sine by your own power, apart from Jesus, a person could claim to shine brighter than someone else by the measure of their works. We are not called to make such a boast - there would be no truth in it. St. Paul as he spread the Light of Christ as a missionary produced no light by his own gumption or winsomeness, Paul had no boast except in Christ alone.

In the Season of Epiphany we will hear of Jesus being baptized, in His baptism Jesus sanctifies the waters so that your baptism into Him will be a Holy one. We will hear of the calling of His disciples ... again Jesus is calling them. After the Season of Epiphany we will move into Lent and on Good Friday in the darkest moment - Jesus dead on the cross, covered by the bushel of every sin you've ever committed or will ever commit, the bushel of every sin from Adam to the last human conceived, covered by all it - and in that darkness it is Jesus who shines, shines, shines right through it All. In fact Scripture teaches us that our "God is a consuming fire."[7] His Gospel light has burned away your sin, they are no more. The Fire of His Gospel light will not be stopped by sin, or a lackadaisical attitude, or by Satan, "His kingdom is a kingdom that cannot be shaken,"[8] a kingdom that comes without our prayers[9] even. Jesus, "The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome [Him]."[10] The darkness may try to put out the Light of Christ but it will not be able.

By the grace of God alone, He shines upon us, He shines upon us all the time, and we celebrate His light, a glorious light that shines to the nations. A light of forgiveness that will never go out. Like a tree that bears good fruit simply because it is a good tree. We reflect the light of Christ in the world, we are the light of the world, not by our own will - for a tree can no more will itself to produce fruit than a candle can will itself to burn. So be content to be who God has made you to be in His son. Live your baptismal life. Return to those waters each and every day. You are a forgiven Children of God who by Grace are granted the great honour to walk in the light of Jesus, forgiven for the times we fail to shine. Without His light we would all be sitting in deep darkness with no escape. In Epiphany we celebrate His light to us, to others, to the world. Because of Jesus alone, to the glory of the Father, we are not hidden we are made to stand, we give light to all in the house. Amen.    

Let us pray:

Lord have mercy on us, Christ have mercy on us, Lord have mercy on us, “take our minds and think through them, take our lips and speak through them, take our hearts and set them on fire; for the sake of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, Amen.



[1] Lutheran Service Book, Concordia Publishing House 2006, Pg 271.

[2] Matthew 5:14-16

[3] Matthew 2:1-2

[4] John 8:12 

[5] John 9:4-5 

[6] Matthew 13:19

[7] Hebrews 12:29

[8] Hebrews 12:28

[9] Luther's Small Catechism, Concordia Publishing House 2005,  Pg 19.

[10] John 1:5