Jesus told you that He is the Light in the world; whoever follows Him, not the ways of the worldly, will not walk in darkness … but in the divine light which expels all shadows of wickedness (John 8:12). Today He is reminding you and me to Arise! Stand proud and firmly planted! Shoulders back; chin up; shine your light — because the light of the Lord is with you; the glory of God dawns upon you. No matter what comes against you, persevere steadfastly in faith and hope. You and I have all the confidence and encouragement we need for today because our inspiration, and our light are not from this world but from above.
Isaiah 60:1-6 Authorized (King James) Version
60 Arise, shine; for thy light is come,
and the glory of the Lord is risen upon thee.
2 For, behold, the darkness shall cover the earth,
and gross darkness the people:
but the Lord shall arise upon thee,
and his glory shall be seen upon thee.
3 And the Gentiles shall come to thy light,
and kings to the brightness of thy rising.
4 Lift up thine eyes round about, and see:
all they gather themselves together, they come to thee:
thy sons shall come from far,
and thy daughters shall be nursed at thy side.
5 Then thou shalt see, and flow together,
and thine heart shall fear, and be enlarged;
because the abundance of the sea shall be converted unto thee,
the forces of the Gentiles shall come unto thee.
6 The multitude of camels shall cover thee,
the dromedaries of Midian and Ephah;
all they from Sheba shall come:
they shall bring gold and incense;
and they shall shew forth the praises of the Lord.
The Word of God for the Children of God. Gloria! In Excelsis Deo! Alleluia! Amen.
“Rise and shine!” A mother or father says to their drowsy kids to get them out of bed, feed them breakfast, and on their way to school. But they don’t want to hear of it. All they want to do is sleep. “Rise and shine!” Shouts an intimidating drill sergeant at 4am into bunk beds filled with fresh recruits. But they do not want anything to do with him. They’d rather stay in the comfort of their beds.
“Rise and shine!” It’s a bright and cheery phrase, so isn’t it kind of ironic that it’s almost exclusively spoken to people who don’t want to hear one word of it?
How would you react if, in the middle of the night, into your bedroom prances someone who’s obnoxiously awake for such an ungodly hour and tells you to “Rise and shine!” I don’t know which would be louder – the audible groan coming from the person in bed, pulling their covers back over their head, or the sound of the alarm clock flying in the direction of the bright-eyed and bushy-tailed wake up caller.
Today is the twelfth day after Christmas. Many are celebrating the Festival of Epiphany. Epiphany comes from a Greek word meaning, “shine forth” or “appearance.” At Christmas, we celebrated Jesus as the Light of the world, born into our darkness. At Epiphany, we celebrate because that Light of the world shines forth as the Savior of the whole world – for both Jew and Gentile. So, it makes sense that we would shout; “Rise and shine” on the day of Epiphany. But still, hearing those words in these pandemic days, is enough to make us cringe. They are almost always spoken unto a people who do not want to hear them.
If anybody did not want to hear about rising and shining it was the people of Judah during the prophet Isaiah’s time. The Assyrians had deported 10 of the 12 tribes of Israel – a full 83% of the Promised People, exiled, wiped off the map.
And now, there was another “biggest bully on the block,” the Babylonians were waiting in the wings to come in and crush the remaining 2 tribes of Judah and carted and marched them off into exile. This was an extraordinarily tragic time. (Psalm 137) This is an indescribably catastrophic time in Israel’s brief history.
The Lord had been faithful to his promises and his people. He led them out of slavery from Egypt. He parked them in the Promised Land complete with cities they didn’t build and fields they didn’t plant. Even after all of the Lord God’s faithfulness, the people turned away from him, ran after idols. (Isaiah 53:6)
Sure, they went to the temple and made offerings with their hands, but their hearts were on another planet. They gave lip service to things like justice and mercy but were more interested in lining their own pockets at anybody’s expense, even God’s. But in spite of their faithlessness, the Lord wanted his people back. God yet wanted the people to see the dawning light of their God.
He would use those nations of Assyria and Babylon to discipline his people, and it wouldn’t be pleasant. They’d be ripped away from hearth and home, family and familiarity, removed from the land, from the temple – those very visible reminders of God’s presence among them – and plopped into a land not their own, surrounded by a people not their own.
Things were not pretty. After long years of exile, into that pitch black scene of despair from the past and hopelessness for the future came the prophet Isaiah shouting the “shocking” words of our Old Testament lesson, Arise and shine!
A lot of people might hear that and just think, “Great, here’s another Christian who’s too heavenly minded to be of any earthly good; always rattling on about how God’s got a plan for hope and prosperity and how things will “soon” get better.”
It’s probably enough to make us cringe. Yet, Isaiah had it right, but apparently did not remember when he said, “See, darkness covers the earth and thick darkness is over the peoples.” He said it himself – things are bad! And now he has the hypocritical nerve to continuously shout out, tell me to rise and shine!
Sometimes Christians get perceived that way, don’t we? Like people who walk around saying, “Don’t worry, be happy!” all the time, completely detached from reality, oblivious to what the lives of real people are actually like. And when that happens, the results are predictable: Are you really listening to me? Do you have any idea what I’m going through? Rise and shine?! You don’t know about my marriage; you don’t know what it’s like to have a son/sibling/parent I haven’t talked to in a decade; you don’t know about my addiction, my abuser, my worries. Quit shouting! “It’s a dark world, and Christians aren’t immune from it either.”
That kind of dark cynicism inevitably creeps in, sets up shop in our hearts, too.
Why should I bother with the word of God right now– I mean it’s not like it’s going to change anything. Preacher, tell me one more time about light and hope in Christ and I’ll give you an unimaginable time, because you do not know how hard it is out here!
That’s the clever snare of the fowler – it seems like a message of hope and a promise of God, spoken in the name of Jesus, is somehow invalidating the experience of the person we share it with. As if the light of the gospel can’t possibly be for you or me, because my life is such a testimony to its opposite!
Pretty soon, we become used to the darkness, thinking that this is all there is. Here I am, just me and my problems, getting acclimated to my new normal, decorating the walls of my abyss, because nobody knows the trouble I’ve seen.
“Nobody knows the trouble I have seen! Nobody knows my darkness I endure.” Yet, into your pitch-black scene, your perception of despair from the past and hopelessness for all our futures, comes Isaiah shouting at us to arise and shine!
What’s going on here? Are Isaiah’s words simply blind optimism for a silver lining? Hardly. Listen to what he says, “Arise, shine, for your light has come, and the glory of the LORD rises upon you.” Rise and shine! This is what this time celebrating Epiphany is all about – rise and shine because the Son of God shines on you, yes even you are living under a cloud of thick darkness.
This is the Light of the world prophesied by Isaiah, preached by Paul, and presented gifts by the Magi – and this Light is for you and for me. Jesus came not to demand something of you, but to be something for you – he came to be yours and mine substitute, living every moment of his life in perfect obedience to his Father in Heavens will, because he knew we couldn’t, and we wouldn’t.
The Glory of the Lord! The Light of the world has dawned! Jesus is 100% alive!
Jesus came not to demand something of you and me, but to be something for you and me. Jesus came to be our Savior – the One to rescue us from our sins.
Meditate upon it! Study and pray over and through it – the very Light of the world slain by the darkness of death only to burst forth in the glorious day of his resurrection, for you and for me. The Light of the world has come, not to demand something of us, but to be something infinitely greater. Jesus came to be our Light – to show you and me that even in the darkness of this world and the thick darkness of our sin, he shines on us with his perfect forgiving love.
Arise and shine! Isaiah says, not like an obnoxiously cheery wake-up call that gives you no power to actually do what it asks. Isaiah says, Arise and shine not to try to get us to do something, but to show you and me what we have received.
Arise, shine, for your light has come, and the glory of the LORD rises upon you. The Light of the world shines – for you and me. Do you see how that little phrase “for you and for me” takes this short devotional to a whole new level?
Jesus is the Light of the world! Great. Jesus is the Light of the world who shines his forgiveness upon you and me and all who come to believe. That makes all the difference in the eternal equation, doesn’t it? God so loved the world – that’s true enough. God so loves you – that is the enlightened point of God’s gospel.
Rise and shine, because the Light of the world is shining on us! Rise and shine, not because everything in yours and my life will simply, suddenly, at the snap of a finger get better, not because the estranged from God will suddenly become the beloved of God. Rise and shine because his promise is true and it’s for you. Rise and shine because the Light of the world shines on you in your darkness.
How does he do it? Jesus, the Light of the world, cuts through the dense fog of our doubt with a word spoken his name and carrying with it his full authority – “I forgive you all your sins in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.” (Luke 23:34-35) The Light of the world pierces the sin darkened night of our guilt by placing into our hands and on our lips his own body and blood for forgiveness of sins, whose sins? Yours! Whose sins? Mine! The Whole World’s.
Through the water and word of Baptism, the Glory of the Lord, the Light of the world reached his radiant hand into the dark abyss that was yours and mine life and pulled you and out, calling us by name, making you and me his very own.
Rise and shine this Epiphany because the darkness of sin and doubt must flee from the radiance of the Son of God who’s on our side. Rise and shine because the Son of Righteousness rises upon us with healing and with forgiveness in his wings – not only for our sins, but also for the sins of the whole world. Rise and shine, because Christ shines his light on us, sets us free from sin, and sets us loose to shine his love to everyone around us. Rise and shine, because the dead, darkened, and despairing don’t stay down when Christ Jesus is in the mix. Rise and shine, celebrate this Epiphany because Christ is here, and he’s here for you!
In the name of God, the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit, let us pray,
Prayer to the Holy Spirit
Come, Holy Spirit, and fill the hearts of Your faithful and kindle in us the fire of Your love. Send forth Your Spirit and we shall be created. And You shall renew the face of the earth.
O, God, Who by the light of the Holy Spirit did instruct the hearts of the faithful, grant that by the same Holy Spirit we may be truly wise and ever enjoy Your consolations. Through Christ our Lord. Gloria! In Excelsis Deo! Alleluia! Amen.