Old Testament Lesson Isaiah 9:1-4
Second Lesson 1 Corinthians 1:10-18
Gospel Lesson Mathew 4:12-25
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 9:1-4].
Every summer we hear about people disappearing into the woods. Sometimes they’re experienced hikers who know the territory and other times they’re inexperienced or new to the terrain. But, whatever the reason, the one thing they all have in common is that at one point or another they get disoriented. And the harder they try to re-orient themselves, the more confusing things get.
Then there’s the time factor. The closer it gets to sunset the more urgent things seem to be. No one wants to be lost in the woods in the dark. Being lost in the woods at night can be a bone-chilling experience. Even when the moon is full, the darkness and the shadows are confusing.
And the dark is so disorienting that it’s hard to tell whether you’re walking uphill or downhill; and trying to tell if you’re going east or west, north or south? … well just forget it.
If it’s cloudy or if there’s no moon, the darkness can be so thick you can’t even see your hand in front of your face. I guess it’s no wonder that the conventional wisdom for survival in situations like that is to hug a tree; to sit still and wait for someone to find you, even if that means waiting it out until morning.
But, just sitting there in the darkness isn’t comfortable either. Noises come out of the darkness and thoughts of what might be lurking out there start to take shape in your imagination, growing, building, expanding until the urge to do something, anything, is huge.
But, if you get up and start walking in the darkness, you’re sure to get totally lost; and, when morning comes … and you try to retrace your footsteps … you discover that you have no idea how you got to where you are, and the chances of finding your way back to safety are slim.
Walking in the darkness is a sure recipe for disaster. It doesn’t really bring you back to freedom; it makes you more and more a slave to the dark; as the darkness surrounds you and closes in on you with every step you take.
Walking in spiritual darkness is a lot like that; but spiritual darkness is a lot more serious than physical darkness. Walking in physical darkness may get you so lost that you lose your life, but walking in spiritual darkness gets you so lost that you may lose your eternal life.
The more we walk in spiritual darkness, the more disoriented our lives become, the more lost we become, as we find ourselves ever deeper in the true darkness that closes in around us.
This disorientation, caused by the true darkness, gets us so confused that we start to think that the very things that we know are wrong are really right. Oh, our conscience tells us we’re wrong, but we do our best to ignore the truth as we justify our actions to ourselves, comparing our sin with the sins of others, and concluding that we’re all right because our sins aren’t nearly as bad as the sins of our brothers and sisters.
And so we get comfortable walking in spiritual darkness. It’s a lot like an addiction. We drift in and out of reality, as our aimless wandering becomes our way of life and more and more we find ourselves doing things we know are wrong, as wrong becomes right.
Life becomes so aimless that we even forget why we started walking; we forget that we were trying to find our way out of the dark and instead we start to accept the dark. We learn to use the darkness to our own advantage, and then we’re hooked; because when we think we’re in control of the darkness, the darkness has got us right where it wants us.
We live in the darkness; all the while telling ourselves we don’t want to, but we do. That’s the way of sin. That’s the way of death, eternal death; and because we’re born in sin, born in the dark, we have no clue how to find our way out. Our conscience tells us that to get out of the darkness we need light. And so we go searching for this thing called light. We look high and low for the light. We convince ourselves that we’ll find it, whatever light is; but we have no idea what we’re looking for, and even if we did, we can’t bring the light to ourselves.
We’re so used to living in the dark that we don’t realize that our searching for the light amounts to nothing more than groping through the dark with no chance of ever finding what we’re searching for.
But, there is a Way out of the darkness; a Way with a capital W. In his grace, God has sent us the Way. In his mercy, God has sent us the Light; not ordinary physical light, but the true Light, the Light of the World, the One true Light that’s the salvation of all mankind.
This Light, sent by God, comes to us and leads us out of the darkness. This Light fights for us, doing battle with the darkness, because we aren’t strong enough to battle against it; it’s too powerful, it’s too cunning, it’s too slick for us to defend ourselves against it; but the true Light can defend us, because the true Light that is coming into the world cannot be overcome by the darkness.
The true Light, Jesus Christ, comes to us and pierces the darkness of our lives. He banishes the darkness and fills us with his pure Light. He shines a pathway out of the darkness and into his marvelous light. He leads us to our new home; a home filled with his light, a home where there’s never night, a home that has no darkness in it at all.
He’s come to us and saved us, body and soul. It cost him his life, but even in death his light shone on as he announced his victory to the souls lost in eternal darkness; and the darkness of death couldn’t defeat him. He rose again, shining brightly just as before; the light that would not, could not be defeated by the darkness.
This is our Savior, the one we confess to be God of God, Light of Light, very God of very God; the one who gives to us the forgiveness of all our sins, the one true Light that promises to be with us always so that we never need to fear the darkness again.
His Light changes us and gives us purpose. No more groping around aimlessly in the dark searching for the light; this Light makes us bold. Now, with the light of Christ shining brightly in us, we walk boldly into the darkness; bringing light to darkness wherever our Savior leads us.
Because his light shines in us, we can’t sit anymore. No, we rise, as the Holy Spirit sends us out into the world where our neighbors still walk in the darkness of their sin. God sends us proclaiming the good news that the Light has come; and, with that Word, the Spirit shines the Light of Christ into the darkness; destroying guilt, destroying fear, as we announce the good news of salvation by grace alone, through faith in Christ Jesus alone.
The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light. God has done this. He’s brought the light to us and we live in the light. The noises that come out of the darkness and the thoughts of what might be lurking out there no longer frighten us. The darkness is certainly all around us, but we walk in the light. We belong to the true Light. And with him guiding us today and every day, we will never be lost again.
In Christ’s service,