Monday, December 27, 2010

Sermon - Isaiah 9:2 - Christmas Eve

Isaiah 9:2
Christmas Eve
December 24th, 2010
“A Great Light”

The people who walked in darkness
have seen a great light;
those who dwelt in a land of deep darkness,
on them has light shined

Grace and peace to you this holy night from Christ our Lord, the Light of the World. Amen.

Perhaps you saw the article earlier this week about the Lunar Eclipse that happened to fall on the Winter Solstice. December 21st is the shortest day of the year – the day with the most darkness. So to have a full moon darkened on that same night... is a notable coincidence. Something that doesn't happen too often. Some even called it the “darkest day in 456 years”.

We learn very early about darkness, and often we learn to fear it. Things that go bump in the night – you can't see them when it's dark. In the darkness is the unknown, and the unknown brings fear.

But even as adults darkness is a universal metaphor for uncertainty, hopelessness, and when you get down to it – death and sin. What is darker than the grave? What is darker than the sins that bring us there?

The people of Isaiah's day knew darkness – the Assyrians and Babylonians would wreak havoc on Israel and Judah. Terrible times that brought not only war and bloodshed, but also a great crisis of faith for God's people. Where was he in all this? Where were his promises? Didn't he say that Abraham's descendants would inherit this land? Didn't he promise that David's house would reign forever? Didn't he promise us a land flowing with milk and honey? But now we are stripped from our land, exiled far away, and living as aliens in a land of pagans and foreigners. Dark days for God's people, indeed.

It's that time of year now when we look back and reflect on the year gone by. We too, might wonder where God was in our lives, especially if 2010 brought more “darkness” than most years. Perhaps you've lost a job, or a loved one. Perhaps you've battled some illness or condition. Maybe you saw a relationship fall apart – or just become more and more strained. Certainly it wasn't the Assyrians and Babylonians that troubled you, but each life brings darkness.

Or maybe you continued to struggle with the darkness of your own soul. What dark deeds have haunted you? What sinful lusts or selfish desires? What bitterness do you carry? Or is your darkness a jaded cynicism? Nothing is good or worth bothering with. The darkness can have its way. The world is done for. I'm done for.

But God breaks into our darkness. The same God who hovered over the dark waters of his creation and said, “let there be light”. The same God who set the Sun and Moon and Stars in their places. The same God who spoke to Moses in a burning bush and led his people through the wilderness in a fiery pillar. He brings light. He brings light to people lost and wandering in the dark. He brings a dawn to those who believe the night will never end. He brings joy to those in misery, hope to those in despair. Even to the dead he brings life.

To the people of Isaiah's day, a promise was given. That a child would be born, a son would be given. This Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.... he would bring end to the warfare, release to the captive, and righteousness and justice for all. He, the promised deliverer, would bring light to the people who walked in darkness and dwelt in deep darkness.

We know him too. He is Christ, our Lord. He is the Light of the World. He is the Light of Light, God of God, Very God of Very God. He is the agent of creation – by him all things were made – even light itself. And now this Light from God has dawned upon our world. He shines through the darkness of the dark Judean night. He shines through the millenia and still brings us light today.

What better light for our darkness than the light of Christ? His dark day of suffering on the cross, and his bright morning of Easter resurrection bring wash us in the light of God's love and forgiveness. In Christ, a new day dawns for his people – the darkness has no more say in our lives. We need never wonder or worry or fear – for he has shined even into the darkness of hell itself – declaring his victory over the dark dreaded foe.

On this holy night – tune in, for a bit, to the darkness. Remember the darkness from whence he calls you – the darkness of this world, the darkness of your sins. And then look to the light. Bask in the Light of Light who brightens it . Christ dawns on your soul – in his word – in his true body and blood – by his Spirit. He enlightens and sanctifies you in his grace and truth.

And we share that light. As is our tradition here, we will use these candles to spread a flame – a light – from the Christ candle and to everyone here. Let this light remind you of the true Light that is Jesus Christ. The child born to us to bring us out of the darkness, now and forever. We receive him, and we share him with those around us, we share his light and love with family, friends, neighbors, even our enemies.

For he is the Son of God, Love's Pure light. Born for us, died for us, and lives for us forever. In His Name, Amen.

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