A Sermon for Epiphany and the Baptism of Our Lord 2017 “Rise and Shine”

Old Testament Lesson  Isaiah 60:1-6

Second Lesson  Romans 6:1-11

Gospel Lesson  Matthew 3:13-17

Grace, mercy, and peace from God our Father and our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.  Amen.  The text for our meditation this day is the Old Testament Lesson just read.  [Isaiah 60:1-6]

Rise and shine?  Well, some of us are just not morning people.  Some of us find it a lot harder to wake up than others.  Some of us even find that we have to be woken up, by others; waking up just isn’t something that we do to ourselves.  We have alarm clocks, but the alarm clock just isn’t enough; not loud enough, not annoying enough, not demanding enough to make us get out of bed.  We turn it off; or we hit the snooze button.  In fact we may hit the snooze button over and over and over again; but that doesn’t make us get up.  Some of us need the personal touch.

Any of you parents who have survived the teenage years; and I’ve survived seven times over, any of you can confirm, that wake-ups are not one of the happiest, or easiest of parenting moments; but over the years Patricia and I eventually discovered a method that worked.  When the alarm just wasn’t working, then it became time for the human alarm to intervene; and no one in our house wanted the human alarm to come walking into the room singing “Good morning, good morning, good morning; it’s time to rise and shine!”

The words were irritating, the singsong rhythm was irritating, and the off-key, high pitched, enthusiastic delivery was really irritating.  It was just what the doctor ordered.  No one, and I mean no one, slept through that greeting.  Most of the time they didn’t even make it through half the song before they were out of bed, begging for us to stop.

Did you ever think that people without faith might just need the personal touch?  People without faith are like those of us that are just not morning people.  Their lives are spent with their eyes shut, pretending to sleep in; because they love darkness; they yearn for the darkness, and they have good reason to do so.  Without God in our lives we go through life avoiding the light.  The darkness gives us comfort, because it’s harder to see what’s going on in the dark, but even though it’s harder to see, we know what’s going on there; …sin.

We sin, we feel guilty, we want to hide what we’ve done; and what better place to hide than in the dark.  It’s no wonder sinners find comfort there, or at least they think they’ll find comfort there; but in fact that’s just another of Satan’s lies.  We can’t hide our sin from God; and he won’t let us hide our sin from ourselves.  No matter how hard we try to convince ourselves that we’re OK, no matter how legalistically we define what’s right and wrong, no matter how tightly and technically we define our sphere of personal responsibility, when all is said and done, our conscience still lets us know we sinned.

That’s the Holy Spirit using the Law that God wrote on our hearts, convicting us, making us face our sin, making us realize that there’s no way that we can make things right on our own.  And when he’s got us down, when we feel weak and crushed, then he’s got us right where he wants us.  Then he comes in for the kill!

At least that’s the way it is in the movies right?  Well this isn’t the movies; and it isn’t reality TV either, but this is reality, and in reality when the Holy Spirit crushes us with our sin, the fight is already over.  He doesn’t use the Law to punish us; he uses the Law to make us see, to make us recognize that we can’t save ourselves.  He uses the Law to point us to Jesus.

To Jesus who came from heaven to earth to rescue us; the Son of God, a spirit who put on flesh and placed himself under the Law like us.  But unlike us, born without sin, with no need of cleansing, no need of baptism.  And yet today we also celebrate the Baptism of Our Lord.

How peculiar.  How strange that the only man to walk the earth with no need for Baptism would seek out his cousin, John the Baptizer, and submit himself to the Law.  How unsearchable his desire to humble himself for those who he knew would reject him, would beat him and would crucify him.

Our heavenly Father sends his Son; and his Son comes to us willingly, becoming one of us willingly, even placing himself under the Law willingly, and willingly laying down his life for the sins that we committed.  Really?  How can this possibly be?  Left up to us this would never be.

In the darkness of our sin, we hide, but even there the Spirit comes with his Law and points us to the light.  The light that’s coming into the world, coming to us; the light that’s the life of mankind, Jesus Christ, God’s own Son.

He comes to us, pushing away the darkness with his precious, life-giving light.  He comes to us purifying us in his light, cleansing us with his own precious body and blood, cloaking us in his righteousness, surrounding us with his light, waking us from that deep sleep our sin has gripped us in.

His light shines in us and we rise and shine.  Filled with his light and led by the Holy Spirit, we can’t help but shine out the gospel to those around us who’re still hiding in darkness.  Led by the Spirit, the light of God shines forth into the world, penetrating the darkness wherever it is, bringing light, bringing hope, bringing the good news of salvation by God’s grace alone, salvation through his Son, our Savior, Jesus Christ.

This is what Epiphany is all about, the revelation of our salvation, the truth of the Gospel; that Jesus Christ, true man born of the Virgin Mary, is not just a man at all, but true God, begotten of his Father before all worlds.  God of God Light of Light, Very God of Very God; the only name by which we’re saved.

We’ve been baptized into this name, and all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death. We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life.    For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his.

On that day, we won’t need an alarm clock to wake us up.  We won’t need a silly wake up song.  Even now, we have the Nativity of our Lord to convince us that he’s true man.  We have the Epiphany of Our Lord to convince us he’s true God.  And we have the Baptism of Our Lord to convince us how solemnly he made his covenant with us.

We know our God, and we know that he’s come to save us.  We know that he dwells among us forevermore, protecting, defending, guarding us from all evil.  And we know that for his sake, all our sins are forgiven.

Rise, shine, you people!  Go out into the world and tell the story!  Our Savior has come in all his glory!  He comes to us by sin and death surrounded, with grace unbounded.  The Light has come, and we can’t sleep any more.  The Light has come and he shines in the darkness and the darkness can’t overcome him.  The Light has come, his name is Jesus, for He has saved you and me, He has saved his people.  Rise and shine, the glory of the Lord has risen upon you!

Amen.

In Christ’s service,

Pastor Huelle