TEXT: ISAIAH 9:2-7; TITUS 2:11-14; LUKE 2:1-20
GOD PIERCES OUR DARKNESS WITH THE LIGHT OF CHRIST
Rev. Kenneth W. Wieting


Early yesterday morning I opened just three of the Christmas cards we received in the mail. The first card - from Milwaukee - expressed the desire for the blessings of peace, love, and joy for us with a beautiful evening manger scene. Amid the darkness and evening shadows the light focused on the infant in the manger. The second card - from Shorewood - pictured a small country church with brilliant snow and white light in the sky. But - the real light was in the words – The gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord (Romans 6:23)! Not a usual Christmas text – but so beautifully fitting. The third card was from overseas – one of those persons from other lands befriended by you in years past and instructed here and now a member of our sister church overseas. That card pictured just berries and snowflakes but its real light was also in the handwritten words – Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change (James 1:7). This person also noted the crazy pre-Christmas time in their land - with people running around buying everything they see. But they added – “I like to think of this verse…we have a perfect gift already – so now it is time to relax and enjoy…”


In different ways, these three cards all focused on the same treasure – the light God brings into our darkness through the birth of Jesus Christ. They reflect the message running through the three readings this evening - a light shining in the darkness. In each text it is ultimately the same light - God piercing our darkness with the light of Christ!

CHRISTMAS EVE – DEC. 24TH, 2015
TEXT: ISAIAH 9:2-7TITUS 2:11-14; LUKE 2:1-20
GOD PIERCES OUR DARKNESS WITH THE LIGHT OF CHRIST
Rev. Kenneth W. Wieting


Early yesterday morning I opened just three of the Christmas cards we received in the mail. The first card - from Milwaukee - expressed the desire for the blessings of peace, love, and joy for us with a beautiful evening manger scene. Amid the darkness and evening shadows the light focused on the infant in the manger. The second card - from Shorewood - pictured a small country church with brilliant snow and white light in the sky. But - the real light was in the words – The gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord (Romans 6:23)! Not a usual Christmas text – but so beautifully fitting. The third card was from overseas – one of those persons from other lands befriended by you in years past and instructed here and now a member of our sister church overseas. That card pictured just berries and snowflakes but its real light was also in the handwritten words – Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change (James 1:7). This person also noted the crazy pre-Christmas time in their land - with people running around buying everything they see. But they added – “I like to think of this verse…we have a perfect gift already – so now it is time to relax and enjoy…”


In different ways, these three cards all focused on the same treasure – the light God brings into our darkness through the birth of Jesus Christ. They reflect the message running through the three readings this evening - a light shining in the darkness. In each text it is ultimately the same light - God piercing our darkness with the light of Christ!


The prophet Isaiah proclaimed – The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who dwelt in the land of deep darkness, on them has light shined. The word for darkness is intense and Isaiah spoke of it as oppressive and enslaving. It is the same word used for translating the absolute darkness prior to creation. The Old Testament uses this deep darkness to portray ignorance (Job 37:19) and the evil of sin (Isaiah 5:2) and death (Job 10:21-22) and the grave (Psalm 88:11-12). It is the darkness of all that weighs down upon a groaning world and dying humanity. It is the darkness that causes us to weep.


In our day it is the darkness of deceit and empty promises. It is the darkness of lawlessness. It is the darkness of radical Islamic terrorism – in Paris – in California – in the Middle East. It is the darkness of idolizing death as a savior of sorts – death of the unborn – death of the aged and frail – death of those suffering. It is the darkness of calling evil good and good evil (Is. 5:20).


But the darkness most deadly for us is not on the outside but on the inside. It is the darkness of our hearts so easily controlled by worldly passions. It is the darkness of our thoughts so reluctant to renounce the ungodliness of anger or greed or grudge holding or pride or hate. It is the darkness of our feelings – so often changeable and misleading. It is the darkness of our belief that we should be in control and that life is measured by us. It is the darkness of unbelief in God’s grace in His beloved Son.


The inner darkness of a sinful heart and the outer darkness of a chaotic world lead to another darkness - the darkness of death. The wages of sin is death. We might think of one hymn we sang as a children’s hymn – “God Loves Me Dearly” – but it teaches adult truth. “I was in slav’ry, Sin, death, and darkness; God’s love was working to set me free.” Dear Christians that’s the light proclaimed by Isaiah and by Titus and by Luke – God’s love working to free us in the flesh of Christ. For unto us a child is born, to us a son is given…


Babies should be named. The names foretold for this baby boy show that in His birth the zeal of the Lord of hosts is doing a new thing. His name will be called Wonderful counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. The names of this child are divine! A human child that is Mighty God! This is a new thing! The kingdom of this child - promised with justice and righteousness - promised forevermore. Can it be? Something that lasts! The perfect realm – the perfect life - that lasts! This is a new thing! This is the great light in our darkness!


So enjoy the light – revel in the light – live in the light of God’s saving love for you. For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people…you surely qualify…training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions – God is working through His word to help us recognize the emptiness of this present age and turn our hearts from idolizing its passions – and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age – not “a better than thou attitude” – but believing in our right standing (upright) before God in Christ and by the power of the Holy Spirit disciplining and controlling our minds and bodies and loving our neighbors – waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ – the Prince of Peace is coming again – who gave Himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to purify for himself a people for himself who are zealous for good works – grown to a Man – Mighty God in human flesh bought us back. The zeal of the Lord of hosts did a new thing in Jesus and it is His will for his people – for you - to be zealous for good works.


This may make you feel like you are still in the dark – seeing how easily self-control escapes your emotions – tongue – desires; knowing how quickly worldly passions can muck up your attitude – not always full of the blessed hope for Christ’s return. Dear sinner – recognition of the darkness does not mean you are walking in it. In fact recognition of the darkness is essential to walking in the light. So don’t pretend. “If we say we have no sin we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us…” Don’t pretend but confess. “If we confess our sins he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. And in that blessed forgiveness – don’t cling to sin – don’t continue, willfully unrepentant in sin as if God’s grace is a game - for that is darkness.


God is light, and in him is no darkness at all. If we say we have fellowship with him while we walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth. But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin. (See 1 John 1:5-10).


Dear saint, enjoy the light – revel in the light – live in the light of God’s forgiving, saving love for you. God’s holy messenger over Bethlehem’s field did not say “there, there, God will do a little something to make you smart enough and strong enough to deal with this world’s darkness.” Nor did he say, “buck up and bluster on – if you get it right enough God will be pleased with you.” You know the real message. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them (what light that is) and they were filled with fear. And the angel said to them “Fear not, for behold I bring you good news of a great joy that will be for all the people (again you qualify). For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior who is Christ the Lord.


What this dying world needs is not a little boost and not one more example among many and not even a major correction. What we dying sinners need is a Savior. Dear saints - a Savior is what God gives in the Messiah. Christ the Lord is Mighty God. That’s why one minute the field near Bethlehem was draped in darkness and the next minute the skies were filled with God’s glory. One minute the night air was calm and quiet. The next minute it was filled with heavenly voices! Unto you is born…a Savior! Glory to God in the highest and on earth peace goodwill toward men.


The deep darkness of our sin and death is pierced by the light of God’s saving love! The Light of the world entered the world through the darkness of His virgin mother’s womb. He came to drive back the darkness of all our fears and sorrows - real fears for real evil in this passing world – real fears for our sinful hearts that like to play God – real sorrows for real loss – loss caused by disappointment of hopes - decay of culture - disease of body - death of loved ones. Fear not…unto you is born a Savior. He later said, I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness but will have the light of life (John 8:12)

 

He through whom light was created (John 1, Colossians 1, Hebrews 1) – He who separated light from darkness – was born one night on this earth He made. In Bethlehem’s manger rested the Creator of the world – a baby boy! The holy Son of God with body fit for sacrifice! In the darkness of that night – in the body of that baby – flowed the blood that cleanses us from all sin.


That cleansing flow – the shedding of His blood – also happened in darkness – unique midday darkness some three decades later. Scripture does not tell us on what day of the week He was born but it does reveal that His death took place on a Friday. It was now about the sixth hour, and there was darkness over the whole land until the ninth hour, while the sun’s light failed. He died suffering the darkness of our death. He suffered also the outer darkness of eternal punishment that our sins merit. His creation took notice of this wondrous deed of love.


Beloved – that’s what this night is all about. Now there is light! Light and life to all He brings! He brings light for you! Enjoy the light – revel in the light – live and walk in the light of God’s saving love for you. It’s why He baptized you into His death – clothing you with Himself! It’s why He says – “keep on doing this” – lighting your darkness with heavenly, forgiving food - His body -His blood - at His table!


The Light He brings is so powerful and so piercing that death no longer has the last word over you! The Light of life He brings was shining forth from His empty tomb on the morning of the third day. As the Christmas card said, the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord. As the other card pictured – the infant in the manger is the beautiful focus of God’s light and God’s love in our darkness. As the other card proclaimed - He is the good and perfect gift from above, coming down from the Father of lights. Relax and enjoy your perfect gift. In the Name Jesus - Amen.

Luther Memorial Chapel & University Student Center | 3833 N Maryland Ave | Shorewood, WI  53211
(414) 332-5732 |lmcusc@lmcusc.org

Divine Service: Sundays - 9:00a Mondays - 7:00p Bible Study & Sunday School: Sundays - 10:45a