We continue to celebrate the Christmas season with a feast known as the Epiphany. This feast celebrates Three Wise Kings following the light of Jesus to his crib, in a stable in Bethlehem. Their presence acknowledges his Kingship. As a welcome to the new King they bring royal gifts. Light is significant in the life of Jesus. We read many places in the gospels about light, Jesus saying, “I have come as light into the world, that whoever believes in me may not remain in darkness” (John 12:46) We are called to be light and to let our light shine. This new message series is called, “Walk in the Light.” There are many ways to look at light, and much to see in the light. We are called, to walk in the light, as Christians how we live should be seen so the curious will know by our lives we let the light of the Jesus shine in the world. We see many disciples and pastors of Jesus who let the light of the world into their life so all may know they do more than talk about Jesus but they let Jesus shine through their life.
Walking in the light does not mean we just let our good work show. Walking in the light let’s all we do show, even our imperfections. When we fail as disciples we have a God who is mercy and gives strength to our vulnerabilities, in fact our weaknesses are made perfect in God. (see 2 Corinthians 12:9) Walking in the light requires we actually walk in a new way of life. God is light, a light without darkness thus we are to walk in light and avoid darkness. Walking in the light makes us part of God’s light, creates fellowship with one another and we have Jesus as the light that cleanses us all.Walking in the light does not mean we just let our good work show. Walking in the light let’s all we do show, even our imperfections. Click To Tweet
Over the next five weeks we will look at ways in which we can walk in the light receiving aid from Jesus and the Father to keep our walk on the pathway of light. We will follow the Lectionary over these weeks and use the readings to fill out the message with a weekly theme under the context of this message series theme, “Walk in the Light.”
The readings this week are from the Lectionary for the Epiphany of the Lord are; Isaiah 60:1-6; Ps 72:1-2, 7-8, 10-11, 12-13; Ephesians 3:2-3a, 5-6 and Matthew 2:1-12. This week we read our light has come. The message of the readings focuses on the light coming into the world and being revealed openly by Kings trekking a great distance to Bethlehem, seeking the One who is light. Their journey requires many people, supplies and equipment, therefore they are noticed wherever they travel. They openly announce their purpose and what has been revealed to them. Thus Jesus is announced to the world by these royals. This announcing begins with a great light followed by these Kings. In time Jesus would say, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” (John 8:12)
The first reading from Isaiah addresses a new radiant Jerusalem. Jerusalem is completely restored after is destruction, the city is radiant with the glory of the Lord who has made the city’s temple his dwelling-place. The city attracts people from all nations, those required to visit and others who awe at its splendor. The image of the new Jerusalem raised the spirit of those engage in the final rebuilding and those who live in the city. The reading opens, “Rise up in splendor, Jerusalem! Your light has come, the glory of the Lord shines upon you.” Later in a verse not read but proclaimed in this beautiful poem we read, “No longer shall the sun be your light by day, nor shall the brightness of the moon give you light by night; rather, the LORD will be your light forever, your God will be your glory.” (Isaiah 60:19) Yes, the light is coming and for those people of the new covenant know “our light has come” to save us as promised by God. We also read many will come, including those on camels of Midian, giving us the image of the Kings who visit the baby Jesus several hundred years after this proclamation. This Isaiah proclamation also serves as a prophecy to support God’s plan announcing Jesus to the world. Angels were good messengers to the shepherds, but the rest of the world needs to hear from Kings of the new King, King of Kings.
In the second reading from the letter to the Ephesians Paul is speaking of the grace and revelation he received from God. The original message of Jesus light entering the world is a message for the chosen people, those who would be looking for a Messiah. Paul calls himself the apostle to the gentiles. The light has come for more than the Israelites, the light is available for everyone who wishes to walk in the light. Paul is telling the community in Ephesus that he has been especially chosen by God to be the messenger of this message. Paul will maintain a focused effort of this announcing, telling people about Jesus, the light. Paul uses the same light image: “God who said ‘Let light shine out of darkness,’ has shone in our hearts” (2 Corinthians 4:6). Paul is a partner in the promise Jesus has made in the gospels. Paul works unceasingly to announce Jesus the true light to all. The light has come and everyone is invited to walk in the light.Jesus the true light to all. The light has come and everyone is invited to walk in the light. Click To Tweet
In the gospel of Matthew we read the story of the Magi coming to pay homage to the new King. They are asked by Herod to let him know where this new King can be found. These men followed the star, the light provided to lead them to the Light. The light (star) led them to the place where Jesus is laying. They enter and saw the child with Mary his mother. They paid him homage, offering gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh. The new King is met and announced thanks to the light that shines and precedes them. It is the beginning of the story of the light that has come, first light which in time will announce Jesus to the entire world.
Jesus the light has come. The world was a place of darkness, everything done in secret or decided upon without any transparency. It is easy to be influenced by greed, or self-pleasure, immediate satisfaction when acting in the dark. Taking things for yourself, secretly committing adultery or lust, and many other things that we would call sin. The light has come to take away the darkness, to make all things appear in the light. The light has come to challenge us to live our best life. The light has come so others may see our life and acknowledge God. The light has come so all will see and be encouraged to live in the light, bringing their light forward.The light has come to take away the darkness, to make all things appear in the light. The light has come to challenge us to live our best life. The light has come so others may see our life and acknowledge God. Click To Tweet
We see in these readings that the light has come, it is to be announced to the entire world and this announcing begins by following the light which leads to Jesus, the Light of the world. Our light has come and we are called to walk in this light.
Your light has come
In the beginning of the story of God and man we hear about light. “Then God said: Let there be light, and there was light. God saw that the light was good. God then separated the light from the darkness.” (Genesis 1:3-4) From this point forward God is the light and in him there is no darkness. In fact the First Letter of John says, “God is light, and in him there is no darkness at all.” (1 John 1:5) This is the only place in all of scripture that records God is Light. Saying God is light means the he is the source and essence of holiness and righteousness, goodness and truth; in him there is nothing that is unholy or unrighteous, evil or false. In God there is nothing to be considered a fault or at all sinful.
The contrast between the light and darkness is a metaphor to describe two different ways of living. We see much about this in the new covenant writings. John has many verses that address light. We have this contrast of light and dark, which could be good and evil, or holy and sin. When we are trying to keep our behavior a secret we do it in the dark, or at least out of the light if others who could accuse us. When we want to satisfy some lust, or look at things we shouldn’t see or a sin that has shame associated with it, we go off by ourselves. We don’t want others to know so we do it in the dark, not the light.
Our light has come and choosing to be in the light we are choosing goodness, holiness, righteousness, truth. We cannot choose the light sometimes, for example when we are with people or out in public, we live as one in the light. Choosing light we must be willing to choose the light all times. As in God there is no darkness, if we say we are with God, or have fellowship with God yet we sometimes walk in the dark, there is no truth in us. To be a disciple we must be willing to be exposed to the light at all times. All we do must bare the light.
This does not mean we won’t fail or struggle to avoid the dark, but as a disciple we are willing to ask for forgiveness in these moments. We can allow our vulnerable side be exposed, trusting in God that his light will overshadow the dark in us. But it is different to fall out of the light occasionally versus travelling from light to dark for our convenience. God knew there would be those who would not be able to live in the light. In speaking about judgement, and those who are condemned Jesus says to Nicodemus, “And this is the verdict, that the light came into the world, but people preferred darkness to light, because their works were evil.” (John 3:19)
A gospel example is Jesus criticism of the Pharisees. Jesus accusations center on the religious leaders appearing pious and holy but taking the best seat or place of honor. Jesus says, “Oh you Pharisees! Although you cleanse the outside of the cup and the dish, inside you are filled with plunder and evil.” (Luke 11:39) They travel from the light to the dark whenever it suits their purpose. In reality they prefer the darkness to the light. Speaking to the crowds, Jesus says, “The scribes and the Pharisees have taken their seat on the chair of Moses. Therefore, do and observe all things whatsoever they tell you, but do not follow their example. For they preach but they do not practice.” (Matthew 23:2-3) He calls them hypocrites. It was as if they hoped no one would notice how they served themselves and not the people they were called to lead. They had a system of working in the dark but now the light has come.
Today we see leaders who are their opposite in many ways. With the advent of social media more and more lead pastors and church leaders are exposing more of themselves, their families and their personal life. It is refreshing to see leaders who are willing to put their life in the light. So much about leading people to the light is living in the light. (It is not to say a certain image can’t be projected through Social Media but I think we are seeing more and more transparency.)Today we see leaders who are their opposite in many ways. With the advent of social media more and more lead pastors and church leaders are exposing more of themselves, their families and their personal life. Click To Tweet
Meanwhile there are still leaders who try to project piety and holiness while living a life in the dark. We are living a massive scandal in the Roman Catholic Church of abusive and perverted behavior that could only exists in the dark. Pope Francis has suggested the leadership of the Roman Catholic Church step aside to make “time of seclusion, prayer and discernment, as a necessary step toward responding in the spirit of the Gospel to the crisis of credibility” that is being experienced as a church.” (See Letter of the Holy Father Pope Francis to the Bishops of the United States of America.) He further said, “The Church’s credibility has been seriously undercut and diminished by these sins and crimes, but even more by the efforts made to deny or conceal them.” It is the lack of credibility that leaves the faithful to decide how much they want to live in the light. The Roman Catholic Church claims the largest number of followers, but can it really claim the largest number of disciples? Many are able to do the least to be called a member of the church, especially if they inherited their faith from the parents. Certainly if there were more members living fully in the light there would be more outrage and call for change than what is coming from church members today.The Roman Catholic Church claims the largest number of followers, but can it really claim the largest number of disciples? Many are able to do the least to be called a member of the church, especially if they inherited their faith from… Click To Tweet
Jesus is the light that should shine brightly on the entire church. Each of us should be willing to live fully in the light exposing all of our good and bad. It is a core purpose of Jesus coming; our light has come. Though we may think we can dash into the dark every now and then to hide some pleasure we feel we need or deserve, the light shines in those dark corners. And while we may not be seen or shamed by those who know us, the one who loves us the most is hurt by this behavior as the church suffers reduced members and people who don’t trust the light.
Walk in the light
We are challenged to walk in the light. That light has come, it is Jesus who gave his all for all. From the beginning of time light is seen as critical to a world of God’s children. If we want to be disciples, we must choose the light, always. Jesus’ gave a teaching to his disciples that condemns even walking in the dark via our heart alone. Thinking of a sin is condemned. Speaking about the law and adultery, Jesus says “everyone who looks at a woman with lust has already committed adultery with her in his heart.” (Matthew 5:28) Where your heart leads is your path to the light or dark.
The United States is a post-Christian nation. This does is not claiming we are a nation that is agnostic or atheistic, it fact we are a country that is rooted in the history, culture and practices of Christianity, but the religious beliefs of Christianity have been rejected or forgotten. While a reaction may be to blame this on the leaders, we can see even those Pharisees’ challenged by Jesus did not lead to the down fall of Judaism.The United States is a post-Christian nation. This does is not claiming we are a nation that is agnostic or atheistic, it fact we are a country that is rooted in the history, culture and practices of Christianity, but the religious… Click To Tweet
The Christian church grew by being irresistible. There was a time when people saw a Christian, how they lived, their peace, and their light and said to themselves I want to be like them and so they became a Christian. This is not the predominate thought today when someone sees a Christian. In fact Christians today tend to live more like those who have no faith, adjusting to fit into culture rather than influencing the culture.Christians today tend to live more like those who have no faith, adjusting to fit into culture rather than influencing the culture. Click To Tweet
As disciples we are called to live in such a way that others see us and want to glorify God. It is not easy and it requires service, putting others first and walking in the light. If we hurt someone ask for forgiveness. When we have missed the mark, try to fix it. If we need help fighting some addiction, avoiding pleasure seeking, or help to avoid boasting about our possessions, property, profession, help in anyway rejecting a dark attribute, ask a brother or sister in Christ. It is best to ask for forgiveness and live completely in the light. To be with God we must be fully in light because there is no dark in God. To grow the Body of Christ we must be fully in the light. Our light has come and he wants us to walk in the light.