Damariscotta Baptist Church
Saturday, August 18, 2018
Growing personal relationships with God and community

01/03/16 Sermon - Let's Carry the Light

“Let’s Carry the Light”

Matthew 2:1-12

 

We have just finished the season of Advent when we prepared ourselves for the birth of Jesus. Last week we celebrated the birth with the various traditions our families have created. We read the account of his birth from the gospel of Luke, which would best be described as the “child-like version”. Today, we have heard Matthew’s more “adult-like version” of what life was like during the birth of the King of Kings. Today’s Scripture tells the story from a different point of view. Not everyone was delighted with the birth of a baby, lying in a manger, serenaded by angels and visited by shepherds. Today’s Scripture fills us in on what was really going on. At the time of Jesus’ birth, the world in which he entered was a world full of darkness. To start with, Herod was ruler and you may recall from our study of Mark, his reputation was one of being ruthless and selfish and willing to do “anything” to keep in power, including, massacring all the boys in Bethlehem and its vicinity that were two years old and under, when he learned he had been tricked by the magi. Darkness was a way of life for the majority of those who lived during the 1st Century. Most people lived a life of virtual slavery. Their food and sustenance was dependent upon the landowners and the landowners were overshadowed by the Roman Empire which consisted of ruthless conquerors who had no conscience and didn’t think twice of using a sword to get rid of their troubles. For the common person, there wasn’t much hope of things changing.

Except for the Jewish people,

They had a hope to sustain them.

The Jewish prophets had foretold of the coming of a Messiah, who would restore His people to their land and redeem them from oppression. The Holy Scriptures were full of prophecies that offered hope to those who believed. For the early Christians, it was Jesus who fulfilled these hopes.  The early church established the feast of Epiphany, as one of the important days to celebrate. This feast day was to commemorate the visit from the Magi to the infant Jesus, which was seen as a fulfillment of the prophecy in

Isaiah 60:3, “Nations will come to your light and kings to the brightness of your dawn.”

For the early Christians, living in a world of hopelessness and darkness, the visit of the magi was another sign pointing to the light.

There is something else about this visit from the Magi that is worth mentioning. The magi were actually pagans, followers of Zoroastrianism, one of the world’s oldest religions, “combining a cosmogonic dualism and eschatological monotheism”, in other words, they worshipped the stars. They had no connection to Judaism yet according to today’s Scripture, “on coming to the house, they saw the child with his mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshipped him”. 

From the beginning of Jesus’ birth, there were shepherds, angels, Jews and Gentiles alike worshipping Him.

Our church tradition does not focus a great deal on the celebration of Epiphany, but in a very real sense, Epiphany is an excellent description of our faith.

The word Epiphany, literally means, “revealing”, it has the connotation of taking away a veil that covers something and allowing it to be seen. Epiphany is the unveiling of what Advent promised.

Isaiah 40:5 “And the glory of the LORD will be revealed and all humankind together will see it.”

Today things haven’t changed a whole lot.  For many people in our world, their experience of life is darkness. Over the holidays I had a phone conversation with a relative and the topic of politics came up. I’ll spare you the details but once we had given our thoughts on what was happening my relative commented on how hopeless things seemed. Our society is slowly changing to where the rich have more and the poor have less, and those with more are caring less for those with less. In addition, we are also in the darkest time of the year, when there is literally more darkness than light during the day. There is also a darkness, for some, that comes regardless of the time of year, the darkness of hopelessness.

That is why the celebration of Epiphany is so important. It’s a time to remind us that in Jesus, there is a light that never goes out, Jesus is the light of the world, a light of faith, a light of hope and a light of joy that shines through any type of darkness the world can muster.

Something new has come – how do we respond?

Like the magi or like Herod?

Let us take a lesson from the Magi who ventured a great distance to experience and worship

-       the answer to the prophecies

-       the one who was revealed by a great light,

-       and let us take time to pay homage to

-       the Light of the world,

through the participation of Holy Communion.

And as we partake of the elements, let us commit to carrying this Light into 2016, wherever, and to whomever, God leads.

Let’s pray.