“Look for the Light”
Isaiah 42:1-9, December 16th, 2018
Sermon by pastor Tim Woodard
Third Sunday of Advent, Light the Third Advent Candle – Joy
“Hear the ancient words of Isaiah, chapter 42, verses 1 thru 9”
“42 Here is my servant, whom I uphold, my chosen, in whom my soul delights; I have put my spirit upon him; he will bring forth justice to the nations. 2 He will not cry or lift up his voice or make it heard in the street; 3 a bruised reed he will not break, and a dimly burning wick he will not quench; he will faithfully bring forth justice. 4 He will not grow faint or be crushed until he has established justice in the earth; and the coastlands wait for his teaching.
5 Thus says God, the Lord, who created the heavens and stretched them out, who spread out the earth and what comes from it, who gives breath to the people upon it and spirit to those who walk in it: 6 I am the Lord, I have called you in righteousness, I have taken you by the hand and kept you; I have given you as a covenant to the people, a light to the nations, 7 to open the eyes that are blind, to bring out the prisoners from the dungeon, from the prison those who sit in darkness. 8 I am the Lord, that is my name; my glory I give to no other, nor my praise to idols. 9 See, the former things have come to pass, and new things I now declare; before they spring forth, I tell you of them.”
“Let us now open our eyes as well as our hearts to see the shining ‘Light’ of God!”
“Look for the Light”
Our annual celebration of Christmas still lays ahead of us, yet, here we are listening to the words of the prophet Isaiah… reaching across the expanse of time, telling us to let the light of Christ shine in our lives, our churches, cities towns and villages; even to let it shine upon the nations of the world! What a joyous occasion Isaiah is prophesying about! He is foretelling of a time when the light of God shall overtake the dark corners of our nation and the shadows which dwell in and around all of humankind throughout the entire inhabitants of the world in which we live in! Isaiah is picturing and envisioning what can be – when everyone begins to see the light of God glimmering, sparkling and flashing; taking away the blemishes of humankind’s injustices! What a joyful day that shall be!
We too are forecasting and announcing: a time when we too can proclaim to the world the light of Christ, the light which is flashing from this community. It has been proclaimed from our Facebook page at Riviera United Church of Christ, and on our website at Rivieraucc.org; even our sign in front of our church proclaims it! On December the 24th, Christmas Eve, we shall celebrate in our annual service of Lessons and Carols! At which time we shall read the old, old story of the coming of the Holy One, the Messiah, the Christ Child and we shall sing the glorious Christmas Carols which remind us of the hope, the peace, joy and love of God in our lives! Setting the stage for the symbolic lighting of individual candles by everyone in attendance, stemming from the Christ candle which signifies the light of Christ! One by one our candles are lit, lighting up the darkness which surrounds us. Ultimately, this sanctuary, will be ablaze with the light from our community, symbolizing the light of Christ which shines through our personal faith… as we receive the love of God through the Christ child into our lives! What a glorious night it shall be! I pray that many shall gather, on such an occasion, as the Light of Christ beams from our midst!
Why is it so important to set aside time each year to proclaim these truths about the importance of God’s gift to the world? Is it less important now than it was at the time of Isaiah so long ago? Our modern society is so advanced from the ancient times of old. Christ was born over two millennial, two thousand years ago. Christ has already walked upon this earth born in a humble way, more out of poverty, then out of power, influence or authority. Christ, the Son of God, the Son of Man, the embodiment of God in human flesh, has already personally experienced the pain of our mortality, in the midst of our rebellious and oft times corrupted ways, by means of our all too human nature! Yes, even after paying for our sinfulness, the Spirit of Christ, the Living God, has transcended the barriers of human life and that of eternal life in the realm of our Creator God.
So again, the question is asked: why do we still set ‘time’ aside to celebrate the birth of a baby named Jesus!? Because it is so important to renew this landmark occasion in the course of history! Reclaiming for ourselves and for all humankind the milestone in the relationship between humanity and the Creator. But even more important than all of this, we do so every December the 25th, remembering the birth of a baby named Jesus, so that the generations behind us will come to know of this ancient story. Why, because we want them to grow up knowing about God’s abundant love! When we honestly look at the state of affairs, within the world in which we live, we must realize how crucial it is to keep reminding ourselves that Jesus also is the symbol of true social justice in the world! Justice of which Jesus proclaimed, and Isaiah before him proclaimed, was for all those whom have been and are being marginalized within our society! It doesn’t matter how we categorize injustices, and our part in it, it is still part of our society, just as surely as it was at the time of Isaiah and that of Jesus.
We are still mortal. We humans still need to be born and we still struggle with life as we live the best we can. We still, despite the miracles of science and modern medicines; we still shall come to the end of our life cycles and we shall return our essence unto the dust from which we were born. The celebration of Christmas is a joyful reminder of the promises of God through the gift of a baby boy-child named Jesus. It is important for our own needs of spiritual renewal to be reminded of the gift! Just as it is important to be reminded that this is a time to make a special effort to be sure no one is left behind, or pushed aside, as we seek to live into the prophesy of Isaiah. If we do not, then the writings of Isaiah are only a history lesson, falling upon deaf ears. Therefore, unless we pick up these words of Isaiah and allow them to speak to us here in this present time, we dishonor the prophesy of the Messiah of whom Isaiah speaks of.
The question which needs answering for each one of us is this: “Are you seeing the light of Christ in your life?” If you are not, perhaps you are not looking, or you are looking in all the wrong places! First let us hear again what the voice of God is saying to us through these writings of the prophet Isaiah. “I have called you in righteousness, I have taken you by the hand and kept you;”/Isaiah 42:6b/ Through the words written and now read for us this morning, Isaiah, whom is speaking on behalf of God, is introducing to us the Messiah. Continuing on, he is telling us more of how the Holy One, the Son of God, will become a “Light” to all the nations. “I have given you as a covenant to the people, a light to the nations,” /Isaiah 42:6c/ Further more through the voice of Isaiah, God tells us that Jesus is: 7 “to open the eyes that are blind, to bring out the prisoners from the dungeon, from the prison those who sit in darkness.” /Isaiah 42:7/ Isaiah, speaking as the voice of God, to you and to me, we the people of God, we are being introduced to and told, through the voice of the prophet, of the coming of the Messiah, the Christ Child. Furthermore, through this prophesy we are hearing outlined, for our ears and our hearts to hear, God’s expectation of what the Servant of God shall be responsible for!
Fast forwarding to our present time, knowing Christ was born of Mary, raised by her and Joseph, then baptized by John at the river Jordan; we know that Jesus walked among the people of God, healing the sick, reaching out to those whom had been marginalized and pushed aside. While doing so, Jesus taught his early disciples and those whom were willing to listen, opening the scriptures while he interprets and proclaims for all to hear the teachings and promises of God. Through his personal example, documented in the New Testament, Jesus prepares all who are willing to hear, how to continue the ministry he proclaims. Jesus charges his follows to be the hands of healing for the weak; the voice speaking out for the outcasts and marginalized, become the living voice for justice. Jesus taught compassion, kindness and love. We honor his birth by following in his footsteps! Joy comes from carrying out and living into his teachings.
Here it is the third Sunday in Advent, we have lit the candle of joy. In so doing we have moved closer to the Sunday before Christmas which quickly leads us to our Christmas Eve celebration! Joyfully, when we look for the light of Christ, we see it showing up in our church, in the eyes of those who trust in God’s love. We see it when we reflect on all which has been accomplished through our joint ministry here in this community. Through the generosity of all here gathered and those who have gathered before us, we have a place of worship where all are welcomed. Not just the well to do and affluent, but all levels of the economic spectrum are welcome here. We have welcomed the old, the young, and all those in between. We celebrate and welcome the highly educated and the skilled craftsmen and women into our midst; all the while beckoning to those who are at various and wide-ranging levels of education and skills, to come join us as well. It is with joy we celebrate the diversity of our ethnicity, knowing we are all beloved children of God. We believe that God approves of our acceptance of all people, gay, straight or unsure, all are welcome here! It is with joy as we feel the Living Spirit of God, illuminating and setting on fire the dark corners of prejudice, bigotry and bias of all kinds, giving way to new openness and extravagant welcomes by churches and institutions such as the Riviera United Church of Christ!
Isaiah prophesized the coming of Christ, giving hope to the hopeless. John the baptizer came calling upon the people to repent, preparing the way for one greater than he. “The angel Gabriel came telling Mary to be not afraid for unto her a child shall be born, and his name shall be called Emmanuel, the Messiah, a baby named Jesus.” /Luke 30 adapted/ Surely, Mary found peace in knowing her pregnancy, though she was unwed, was blessed by God. Anyone, who has looked at the expression on a mother’s face, when she first gazes upon her new born child, has seen the light of God’s love, the joy which comes when the miracle of life is first witnessed. Look for the light of God all around you. Be the light of God dispelling the darkness that lurks in the corners and alleyways of humankind. Be that little light that shines and shines in the darkness. Together, when we allow the Light of Christ to shine through us, we shall light up the world; “and the darkness shall not overcome it!” /John 1:1-5 adapted/