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Author:Rev. Jeremy Segstro
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Congregation:Cloverdale Canadian Reformed Church
 Surrey, BC
 cloverdalecanrc.org
 
Title:Light Into the Darkness 6: The Saving Light
Text:Isaiah 60 (View)
Occasion:Advent
Topic:Unclassified
 
Added:2023-01-24
 

Order Of Worship (Liturgy)

Reading: Luke 2: 1-38

Text: Isaiah 60

 

LIGHT INTO THE DARKNESS: THE SAVING LIGHT

  1. It is a Gift

  2. It is Magnetic

  3. It is Eternal

 

  1. Psalm 96: 1, 2, 4

  2. Hymn 22: 1, 2

  3. Hymn 67: 1, 3, 7

  4. (After reading Nicene Creed) : Psalm 87: 1, 3, 5 

  5. Psalm 86: 3, 4

  6. Joy to the World: 1-4

 

Words to Listen For: oratorio, lasso, shock, ugliness, shattered

 

Questions for Understanding:

  1. What are the six parts of the story?

  2. Is Isaiah 60 about Christmas? What c-word is it more accurately about?

  3. Explain Christmas to me like I’m 5.

  4. What’s the “now what” of Christmas?

  5. What will the heavenly city be like?

* As a matter of courtesy please advise Rev. Jeremy Segstro, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.


Beloved congregation of Jesus Christ,

What could we possibly say this afternoon that was not said last time?

The true light, which gives light to everyone, was coming into the world…and the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen His glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.

We have arrived!  More than that…HE has arrived!  That’s kind of the end of the story…isn’t it?  The rest…well…the rest is just…details.

It had all been building up to CHRISTMAS.  The INCARNATION…

THE MOST IMPORTANT CHRISTIAN HOLIDAY OF THE YEAR…right?

Well…some of you might remember, that a few weeks ago, I shared the story of a debate that I had about 10 years ago in Winnipeg.  A debate about what was MOST IMPORTANT - Good Friday, or Easter Sunday?  I then proposed a third option - Christmas Day.

You may also remember the conclusion that I came to…about 10 years too late: they are all part of the whole.

Veni Vidi Vici - I came, I saw, I conquered.

Jesus was BORN - Veni

He LIVED - Vidi

He DIED AND ROSE AGAIN, CONQUERING DEATH - Vici

Christmas, Good Friday, and Easter Sunday are all pieces of the whole.  Each one is necessary.

But then, my own tactic was used against me…in conversations after the sermon, other options were proposed to me.  What about Ascension day?  What about Pentecost?

And…these are EXACTLY RIGHT.

It’s not a three-part story…truly…it’s AT LEAST 5 parts.

I came

I saw

I conquered

I ascended

I built my church

5 parts that HAVE HAPPENED that is…one still to go.

Came, saw, conquered, ascended, built, and…I WILL RETURN AGAIN.

So what else is there to say, what else is there to teach and marvel at after Christmas?

SO MUCH!  Bethlehem was only the beginning!

This afternoon, let us close out our series on 

LIGHT INTO THE DARKNESS, knowing that the end of the series is not the end of the story, and examine together THE SAVING LIGHT.  We will see that 

  1. It is a Gift

  2. It is Magnetic, and

  3. It is Eternal

 

THE SAVING LIGHT: IT IS A GIFT

As we examine Isaiah 60 together this afternoon, the first question on our minds should be - what is the prophet speaking about?  What exactly is Isaiah predicting here?

Is this a CHRISTMAS TEXT?  It certainly seems like it in the first verse!

 

Arise, shine for your light has come, and the glory of the LORD has risen upon you.

These words sounds very similar to what we read in Luke 2 about the shepherds - An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them

These words are put to music in Handel’s Messiah, and there, they are attributed to Christmas.

So the case seems rather…open and shut, doesn’t it?  It seems like a Christmas text, it seems to be fulfilled at that first Christmas with the shepherds, it has been assumed to be about Christmas for the last 300 years or so in song.

But then we look at verse 2…and we begin to wonder…

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.

Well, this could still be Christmas!

But then verse 3…from verse 3 to the end of the chapter…it is DECIDEDLY NOT about Christmas.

And the nations shall come to your light, and kings to the brightness of your rising.

The coastlands shall hope for me

Foreigners shall build up your walls

The sons of those who afflicted you shall come bending low to you

I will make you majestic forever, a joy from age to age

Violence shall no more be heard in your land

And then…very clearly in verse 19 - The sun shall be now more your light by day, nor for brightness shall the moon give you light; but the LORD will be your everlasting light, and your God will be your glory.

This is yet to come!  This isn’t fulfilled in the first part of the story, but the final part.

So.  What shall we make of this?  How shall we unpuzzle this conundrum?

IS Isaiah 60 about Christmas?

 

Well…it IS…in the same way that Joy to the World, which we will sing later in the service, is about Christmas.  In the exact same way that Handel’s Messiah is about Christmas.

Really, the chapter, the song, and the oratorio, are all about the comings of Christ - both of them.

His first coming at Christmas, 2000 years ago, coming as a baby in a manger, coming to give hope and joy and light…

And His second coming…which might be today, it might be tomorrow, or 10 000 years from now…coming as a mighty king, coming with judgement and power, bringing fulfillment and joy and light to His people, but punishment and everlasting darkness to those who have rejected Him.

And, at this time of the year, when we celebrate the first coming with our friends and our family, with the church…it is good for our eyes to look, not only backwards with appreciation, but forwards with anticipation.

So, let’s get into our text.

 

Verse 1 - Arise, shine, for your light has come, and the glory of the LORD has risen upon you.

This HAS HAPPENED.  This happened, perhaps most OBVIOUSLY, most DIRECTLY, to the shepherds in the fields, but truly, this is a gift not only for the shepherds, but everyone on that first Christmas.

Luke 2

In those days, a decree went out from Caesar Augustus

Caesar’s light had come.  The glory of the LORD had risen upon him.  As a ruler, a new and more powerful ruler had come…but in a more important way…as a human being, his Saviour had come.

 

This was the first registration when Quirinius was governor of Syria

For Caesar and Quirinius both…the light was available.  The light shone.

 

And then, for those who, we heard last time, were the 6 NAMED MEMBERS of the church - Joseph and Mary, Zechariah and Elizabeth, Simeon and Anna - their light had come.  The glory of the LORD had risen upon them.

And these 6…these 6 all probably had the chance to hold their Saviour in their arms.  Imagine the joy, imagine the excitement.

Every baby is beautiful, every baby is a miracle, a gift from God…but especially this one.  Especially Jesus.  Imagine holding God Himself in your arms.  The opportunity to love Him, to hold Him, to care for Him.  The opportunity to show Him the tiniest fraction of the love that He has shown to you

Amazing.

This light came, and, as we heard this morning, He was rejected…by nearly everyone.

But to those who DID receive Him, to those who believe in His name, He gave the right to become children of God…receiving grace upon grace.

And listen to that language of the Apostle John - RECEIVING.  Those who RECEIVED HIM.

This is the language of a GIFT.  One party GIVES THE GIFT, the other party RECEIVES it.  It has nothing to do with earning it.  Or working for it.  But simply a gift.

That’s what this is all about.

And we see the same in our text, though it isn’t so immediately obvious.

Isaiah 60 - Arise, shine, for your light has come

The light has COME.  It has ARRIVED.  You didn’t bring it to yourself, you didn’t make it arrive, the light, our Saviour, SHOWED UP.  He came.  As we heard this morning, He said “this darkness…this will not stand.”  And so He came as the light.

The glory of the LORD has risen upon you

Again, nothing to do with anything that we ourselves have done.  The glory of the LORD has risen upon you.  Like the sun rising in the east.  You did not throw a lasso around the sun and drag it over the horizon…the sun rose upon you, giving you light and life.

________________________

I read something so wonderful, so simple this week that I would like to share with you.

It was peeking into a conversation between two people.

This is what I read: Someone, please explain Calvinism to me like I’m 5.

And this answer came back: Calvinism is where God says, “I love you” and then the person says “I love you back.”

So simple and yet so profound.

GOD ACTED FIRST.

This is “Calvinism” … really…the gospel.

And we can say the same about Christmas, can’t we?

Christmas is where God says, “I love you” and then the person says “I love you back.”

All those who RECEIVED HIM.  All those who BELIEVED IN HIM.

We don’t deserve it, we didn’t earn it through our good works, through our light…light attracting light, birds of a feather flocking together…not at all.  Instead, God saw our DARKNESS and chose to bring us His light.

He did that in His first coming - Arise, shine, for your light has come, and the glory of the LORD has risen upon you.

And He will do that again in His second coming - For behold, darkness shall cover the earth, and thick darkness the peoples; BUT THE LORD (but God) will arise upon you, and His glory will be seen upon you.

There will be darkness.  Again, that pattern.  Darkness, and then light coming into it, to restore the default settings of the universe.

For behold, darkness shall cover the earth, and thick darkness the peoples  - the problem

But the LORD - the solution.  Always the solution.  BUT GOD.

The light will shine upon YOU.  Who is the YOU?  From the context, we learn that the “YOU” is Israel.  The PROBLEM is for everyone...the solution is to be found by God’s people…but it will not stay this small.  It will not stay this limited.  But rather, it will expand to all people…for this light is not only a gift, it is not only a saving light, but it is a MAGNETIC LIGHT.  Our second point.

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.

We see here the light acting, almost as a giant magnet.  Bringing, not only the treasures of the nations, as Isaiah goes on to speak of - the camels, gold and frankincense in verse 6, flocks and herds in verse 7, silver and gold in verse 9, cypress and pine in verse 13…it isn’t ONLY their wealth that is brought in…but the nations themselves.

It isn’t the animals, the treasures, the wood…these aren’t the MAIN FOCUS.  These are not what the magnetic light is bringing in to the heavenly city at the second coming…but rather, it is the true wealth of the earth.  It is what Jesus Christ rules over - the hearts and minds of men.  The souls of the nations.  For this magnetic light is a saving light!

We see in verse 12 - For the nation and kingdom that will not serve you shall perish; those nations shall be utterly laid waste.

They will perish, and their lands, their treasures…they will be utterly laid waste!  It is the treasures of the REDEEMED that will enter into the heavenly kingdom!

It is this light that draws them.  We could say that it is their SOULS that are magnetic.  Their SOULS respond to the light.

And we see bits and pieces of this already.  This has already happened in a small way, but it will, one day happen in an enormous cosmic way.  When the tribes and tongues and nations are brought in and form a multitude that no one can number.

But we see this in a small way at that first Christmas with the Magi.  The Magi from the east.

Now, we know that it is merely TRADITION that calls these Magi, these wise men “kings” and so we should not make too much of verse 3 - Nations shall come to your light and KINGS to the brightness of your rising.

It is tradition, made popular, probably because of the immediately recognizable silhouette, that these “kings” rode on camels, so let us not make too much of verse 6 - A multitude of camels shall cover you, the young camels of Midian and Ephah; all those from Sheba shall come.

But what should not be overlooked is the second part of verse 6 - They shall bring gold and frankincense, and shall bring good news, the praises of the LORD.

It is not a stretch, it is not grasping at straws, to connect this to the Magi who came from the East.

They brought gold and frankincense, they brought good news to Herod and the people of Jerusalem - YOUR KING IS BORN!  YOUR MESSIAH HAS ARRIVED!  And they brought praises of the LORD, they fell down and worshipped Him in the manger!  Yahweh in human flesh, they praised THE LORD.

And this bringing in of the nations into the church - this is something that began in earnest at Pentecost…that fifth part of the story…God-fearers from all nations came to Jerusalem, and encountered, not just the shadows and ceremonies, but THE LIGHT!  They heard Peter’s sermon that day and believed.  The light of Christ shone in their hearts and they were saved!  And from then on, the gospel, the light, has continued to shine, it has continued to spread into all corners of the globe.  The light is still spreading, the light is still drawing in those who will receive Him.

And we know that this was a surprise, this was a shock to so many.  That God’s chosen people had expanded beyond Israel.

But not for those who knew.  Not for those who searched the Scriptures.

For it is here, in our text, nations shall come to your light!

It was promised to Abraham - you shall bless all nations

 

The Psalms look forward to this day

- Psalm 22 - all the ends of the earth will remember and turn to the LORD

- Psalm 87, which we will sing later in the service looks to the day when former enemies are welcomed in as children and heirs

 

And yet, so much surprise and resistance from the Jewish Christians.

BUT NOT SIMEON.  Not our faithful Simeon.

He knew the Scriptures.  He knew what was to come, and he rejoiced.

Lord, now you are letting your servant depart in peace, according to your word; for my eyes have seen your salvation that you have prepared int the presence of all peoples, a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and glory to your people Israel.

Simeon, a member of the faithful remnant knew the Scriptures.  He knew Isaiah 60, and he knew it was about Christ.

A light for revelation to the Gentiles - nations shall come to your light

Glory to your people Israel - For the name of the LORD your God, and for the Holy One of Israel, because He has made you beautiful…the glory of Lebanon shall come to you.

Simeon knew, perhaps more than anyone, perhaps better than anyone, that it was in Jesus Christ that all of this would happen.

The baby in His arms would save all nations.

The baby in His arms would bring all nations into the embrace of God.

The heavenly city would be filled with all peoples.  Not just Israelites, but east and west, north and south.  Egypt and Babylon, Philistia and Tyre.  Canada, Russia, China, Brazil.  Africa and Australia.

ALL NATIONS.

And this…all of this…we have to keep reminding ourselves…this was a GIFT. This was the doing of God.  This was the plan of God, this is accomplished by the power of God.

Remember verse 1 - Arise, shine for your light has come (you didn’t deserve it), and the glory of the LORD has risen upon you (you didn’t earn it).

It’s a GIFT!

It’s a GIFT…and yet…there is also a command here, isn’t there?

It is ALL GOD…and yet we must respond.  It is all God, from beginning to end, and yet we do have a responsibility.

GOD HAS SAVED YOU, THE LIGHT HAS SHONE INTO YOUR HEART…now what?

 

Now what???

Yes!  This is the WHAT - Christ has come.  Your Light has arrived.

This is the SO WHAT - You no longer have to live in thick darkness.  You no longer have to mourn in your brokenness and the hopelessness of your sin - you have been saved!

And now…the NOW WHAT - Arise!  Shine!

 

Is is God that brings the nations in?

Yes.

 

It is the Church that brings the nations in?

Yes.

 

You see…God has given us His light, He has made His light to shine upon us that we might shine upon others!

ARISE!  SHINE!

You who were once filled with darkness, you who were once helpless and hopeless, living in the gloom and the chaos…something has happened.  The light has dawned upon your mind, dispelling the fog, letting you see clearly, letting you recognize and receive Jesus as your Lord and Saviour.  The light has dawned upon your hearts, waking up slumbering hearts into hearts that love.   The light has dawned upon your hands, melting frozen hands into hands that act for the good of those around you.  Showing care, showing compassion.  Showing love.

God has chosen to use weak and sinful vessels like us to display His treasures to the nations.

But let’s step away from 2 Corinthians language here on this day, and use Christmas language instead.

What has God made us?  He has made us...the Christmas star.

A light in the darkness of the sky, declaring the birth of a new king.  Declaring the coming of the Messiah, far and wide, bringing in wise men and shepherds, bringing in the humble, the meek and the lowly.  Bringing in even the proud and the powerful, recognizing that WE cannot change hearts.  WE are not the Saviour, we only point towards Him.

Just as the moon reflects the light of the sun, so we too, as Christians, must reflect the light of the SON, our Saviour.  We must bring them in, making THEM lights in turn, so that they may bring others in to the kingdom, until all is His glorious light.

And it is glorious, it is beautiful, it is wonderful, verse 9 - For the coastlands shall hope for me, the ships of Tarshish first, to bring your children from afar, their silver and gold with them, for the name of the LORD your God, and for the Holy One of Israel, because He has made you beautiful.

THIS IS YOUR LIGHT.   He has made you beautiful.  He has made His church beautiful in a world of ugliness.  He has made you truth in an age of lies.  He has made you light in a world of darkness.

It is our witness, by our words and our works that will bring the nations in.

And the nations…they are not an afterthought.  They are not second-class citizens in the kingdom, but indeed they are what God uses to beautify His house, verse 7.

They shall come up with acceptance on my altar, and I will beautify my beautiful house.

The nations will be brought in, and truly, their inclusion will make even more glorious the glorious house of our God.  The Gentiles were ALWAYS the plan.  The Nations were ALWAYS to be welcomed in.  At just the right time.  At just the right time…and then forever.  Our final point this afternoon.

Verse 15 - Whereas you have been forsaken and hated, with no one passing through, I will make you majestic forever, a joy from age to age.

Again we see the pattern.  Light into the darkness.  Formerly darkness, formerly forsaken and hated…God will act and make you majestic forever.

This is a promise to the nation of Israel…but the SPIRITUAL NATION.  This is not a promise that God will restore the physical land, the rocks, the hills, the trees, establishing a sovereign state of Israel with proper borders…but rather the spiritual Israel, the church.

And we have been despised.  Throughout history…even when the west was broadly Christian, but especially now.  And this is what we are promised by our Saviour, that if they hated Him, they will hate us.

But that’s not how it will always be.  This too will pass.  Order will be restored, what is hurt will be healed, what was lost will be found, what was in darkness will be in light.

And as we close here this afternoon, let’s marvel at what this will all look like.

We know that the light at the first coming of our Saviour looked like a baby in a manger, a message of hope, new life, joy.  It looked like the sick being healed, the dead being raised, the kingdom of God being proclaimed, it looked like the temple curtain ripping - from top to bottom - an undeserved gift from God - it looked like death on a cross, followed by an empty tomb, and a triumphant ascension.

But what of that last step of the 6?  That last stage of redemption?

Well…let’s marvel together.  Let’s bask in the radiance of the light of the glory of God.

Whereas you have been forsaken and hated, with no one passing through, I will make you majestic forever, a joy from age to age.

I will make your overseers peace

And your taskmasters righteousness.

Violence shall no more be heard in your land, devastation or destruction within your borders; you shall call your walls Salvation, and your gates Praise.

Peace, righteousness, salvation, and praise.

What could be a better description?

We heard last week about the full and wonderful meaning of peace, of SHALOM.  More than just “not war” but rather, a sense that everything is right with the world.  And, one day, the promised day, it will not just be a SENSE, it will not just be a FEELING…but it will be REALITY.  Everything WILL be right with the world.

There will be Righteousness as our taskmaster.  Righteousness shall inform our lives.  Righteousness shall be what motivates us and commands our souls. 

Our walls will be salvation - we will be protected from our true enemy, Satan, with the salvation of Jesus Christ.  We will be protected, we will be preserved, we will be kept close to our God, held in His embrace because of what our Saviour accomplished once for all on the cross. 

And praise - our gates will be PRAISE.  Our going out and our coming in will be characterized by praise.  We will just be forever grateful, forever thankful, forever joyful, with our mouths filled with praise for our God, for our light.

For this is what our Saviour IS and what He WILL BE in an even more amazing way.

Verse 19 - The sun shall be no more your light by day, nor for brightness shall the moon give you light; but the LORD will be your everlasting light, and your God will be your glory.  Your sun shall no more go down, nor your moon withdraw itself; for the LORD will be your everlasting light, and your days of mourning shall be ended.

Wow.  Wow wow wow.  Amazing. Let’s bask in this, unpacking it, just briefly.

There will no longer be a sun or a moon.  We can imagine it like this, beloved.

The LIGHT was there, created on the first day of creation.  The sun, the moon, and the stars were created later, on the fourth day.  And so we refer to them as light-bearers.  God took the light that He created and put it inside these great heavenly bodies.  They were there to mark days and seasons, there to shine upon the earth, there to mark day from night.

But when time has ceased to mean anything…when days and seasons are no more…when Heaven has come down to earth…what need is there of these light-bearers?

The light has come down PERSONALLY…the light has shone, so powerfully, so fully…that it has shattered the light bearers.  There is no need for these pictures of light, these lesser lights…for we have the REAL LIGHT.  The TRUE LIGHT.  The ULTIMATE LIGHT.

And what is said here in Isaiah 60 broadly…the light being the glory of God…well…one author puts it this way: If we allow Isaiah 60 and Revelation 21 and 22 to stand side by side, ignoring for our present purposes the four hundred pages of Scripture that separate them, John’s additional item of information is a startling one. Isaiah is impressed by the City’s dazzling light, but when he turns directly to its source, his vision seems to become clouded.  He sees no distinct shape at the center of the light’s source; he is aware only of the dazzling, pervasive presence of the glory of the LORD.  But John’s attention focused clearly on the center of illumination.  He sees a discernible figure standing at that point where the light shines most brightly, and he cries out in recognition: “It’s lamp is the Lamb!”

It is JESUS CHRIST who is the light.

He is the light of the world in His first coming

He is the light to the nations in His second coming.

And now?  At this time?  This time as we wait as the church, in the light of His first coming, anticipating the overwhelming, the omnipresent, the all-pervasive light of His second coming…our Saviour is still the light.

You see…RIGHT NOW, AT THIS VERY SECOND, through His church, what our Saviour has done, is He has lit up the pathway to the heavenly city.

For we are walking, we are living, we are being transformed as a people, as a church, as individuals…being transformed from light into light.  Into ever increasing degrees of light.  Ever increasing degrees of holiness.  Ever increasing degrees of glory.

As we travel, in our understanding from His coming, to His seeing, to His conquering, to His ascending, to His building…until one day, we will witness His returning on the clouds of heaven, the Son shining brightly, dispersing the clouds of sin and sadness, the LIGHT, shining in the darkness, dispelling it FOREVER.

Come Lord Jesus!

AMEN.




* As a matter of courtesy please advise Rev. Jeremy Segstro, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.
(c) Copyright, Rev. Jeremy Segstro

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