There Was Light, But Darkness Came
How did I get here? One of the details about moving to MN that they didn’t tell me is that, when you are in the more rural areas, your GPS device doesn’t always have all the roads on it. And so, it’s easy to get lost. But when the darkness comes, if you’re already lost, it makes it even worse. This evening in our opening reading from God’s word we start out by asking that question: how did we get here? There is darkness in the world around us. But how did we end up here? At the beginning, in the Garden of Eden, it was completely good. But, as we read, in Genesis 3, Satan entered our world and brought darkness with him. And so, if you want to begin to understand why our world is perpetually broken, here in God’s word is where you need to look. Only here do we read how this darkness of sin came. Only here do we read how thoroughly it affected humanity. If we look to our own experience or to popular opinion, we might conclude that our world is only broken…a little, or in the darkness…a little. This year marks the 100th anniversary of the end of WW I. They called it the “war to end all wars.” It was so bad that no one thought it could be followed by another, even worse war. No, the darkness of sin is real out there. And the darkness of sin is real inside of us. But in these words we don’t just here where where this darkness of sin began. We also hear of the one who will bring it to an end. The Lord promises that there would be a “he” would end the Satanic Serpent, but at great cost to himself. He would be the one would bring light into this dark world.
They Needed Light
How bad is it? Whether you have a broken bone or you have cancer, that’s the question you ask. You need a diagnosis as to how bad it actually is. The words we are about to read give us a spiritual diagnosis. The spiritual darkness that is out there in the world and in my heart—how bad is it? In the words we are about to read, we meet two brothers. By the end of the day Cain had murdered Abel. But what drove him to it? Where did that darkness come from? It came from the inside. Cain murdered his brother with his hands. But the spiritual darkness inside of us is so real that we murder others with our hearts. Jesus said that whoever hates his brother is a murderer.1 And yet, in the midst of all that darkness, light was promised. Adam and Eve fixed their eyes on that promise of at “he” who would come like people looking at a light house on a dark and terrifying night.
The Light Was Promised.
To you. Sometimes the best and most beautiful theology is found in the pronouns. About 800 years before Jesus was born the Lord promised to shine out and reach out his light to Judah and Israel. And what we need to focus on in these words is those two little words, to you. For there was no reason whatsoever why the Israelites could look forward to the Lord shining out to them. They had broken every commandment and every covenant. They had shattered their relationship with him. But when I read these words from Isaiah 60, listen for those words, “to you.” For the Lord also speaks these words to you. The Israelites aren’t the only ones who have broken God’s commands and destroyed relationships. Who of us can say that our hands are clean? With the words we have spoken and the actions we have taken we have shattered friendships and maybe even family relationships. And that’s why those two words, “for you” are so precious and important. Just as Jesus pays for and forgives the sins of the ancient Israelites, so also he pays for and forgives your sins. So when I read these words written so long ago, don’t hear them as dry, dusty words written for people without your problems. Hear those words, “to you” as precious promises spoken to you.
Jesus Is The Light
Look quickly. You might miss it. Some years ago we went on a family vacation and we stopped at McDonald Observatory. And so, we got to look at the stars through massive telescopes. And at one of the stations where where was a telescope, I got to see a twin star. And the lady at that station kept saying the same words to each person: “Look quickly, you might miss it.” In these words the same is true. There’s a very important detail about Jesus, the Light of the world, spoken. But it’s easy to miss. The angels appear to shepherds in the fields. And then there’s a very important detail they add. But it’s easy to miss. The angels says to the shepherds that Christ, the Lord is there. But then, what is this Christ, and where should they look for him? The Lord of the universe is a baby boy. And they should look for him in a manger. That is a detail that is easy to miss. The angels encouraged the shepherds to look for the King of kings in humble places. And the same is true today. Don’t look for the Light in the rumbling thunders of the sky. Don’t look for Jesus in the powerful yearning emotions of your heart. You will not find him there. Look for the light in these humble words, the bible. Why is it that we come to church Sunday after Sunday; why we take our bibles home and read them to ourselves and to our children? Here in these words is where we find the light. And here in these words we learn of the one who keeps all his promises. One of the greatest proofs of this darkness of sin inside of us is what we do with promises. We make them and then are unable to keep them. Sometimes we make them knowing that we probably won’t keep them. Not so with the bible. The shepherds saw the Christ. And everything they saw was just as the angels had told them. Look for Jesus in the humble places. Look for him in his word. There is where he makes his promises. And since he is the light of the world, he will keep them.
Live in the Light
Some descriptions are beyond our imaginations. Before I was a pastor I had a year of internship. It was called my vicar year. And Karin and I spent that year in the Northwoods of WI. And in that area there were thousands of lakes just as there are here. And what I remember is asking the people there what it was like to get up or go to bed with the light shining off the lake. And all the words they used didn’t seem to get the job done. In these final words from the final part of the bible the same is true. Can you imagine a place where there is no darkness? Can you imagine a place where there is no suffering, sin, death, and despair? Jesus won that place of light for all of us. And in these final words he gives us the invitation to live every day with that light firmly fixed in our minds and hearts. And he does so for a reason. Since we do not see the light of heaven right here and right now in front of our faces, it’s so easy to forget that there is where we are headed. It’s so easy to have the stress of school and work, the busy-ness of life, and even have the blessings that are fun here in this life lead us back into the darkness. No, the light that lasts is not here on earth. It’s there in heaven. There in heaven there will be no darkness of sin. There in heaven we will see those who put their faith and their lives in Christ. There in heaven we will see Jesus face to face. So, my friends in Christ, live in the light every day. Do this by repenting of your sin every day and rejoicing that Jesus is the Light of the world who takes your sin away. And keep lifting your eyes to you home above in heaven where there will be no darkness ever again.
1 cf. Matt 5:21 sq.