Sermon

Matthew 2:1-12

 

A Light to the Nations

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Matthew 2:1-12

A Light to the Nations

Clare Kelley

According to Webster’s dictionary, Epiphany means “an appearance or manifestation of a divine being.”

in the Christian calendar the Feast of Epiphany marks the celebration of a star appearing to lead wise men to the Christ child.

However that is hardly the only epiphany in the Bible
from the very first book of the Bible,

from the beginning of our history with God
God has been appearing and revealing God’s self to us
to Adam and Eve in the garden
to Abraham and Sarah in the desert
to Moses in a burning bush
to prophets in visions
to wise men led by a light shining in the dark
to Paul in a blinding flash on the road to Damascus
to all of us in a child born in a stable
who grew to manhood and died on a cross
and rose again from the dead.

Our God does not hide or remain remote
our God is a God of epiphany
A God of self-revelation
And it was for this that God chose a people to be God’s people.

They didn’t ask God why they were chosen – They didn’t ask for what?
Probably because they thought they knew.

Maybe because they figured that being chosen, being singled out, meant that they were special
especially deserving
especially loved.

But God answered the question the people did not ask
to Abraham God said that he was chosen so that his family could be a blessing to all people
through Isaiah, God told the people that they were chosen to be a covenant to the people, a light to the nations
so that the blind would see
and the prisoners would be brought out of the darkness.

Paul was told that he was singled out to carry the light of Christ to the Gentiles

Christ told his disciples that he was the light that had been sent into the world
and he told his disciples that we are meant to be the light of the world
and that we are to let our light shine so that everyone might see and give glory to God in heaven.

Even if we did not ask, God has been very clear about what the we have been chosen for
the people of God are to be an epiphany
a star shining in the dark
a sign pointing to God
a revelation of who God is and what God is doing in the world
a manifestation of God in the world.

Being one of God’s chosen certainly has its privileges
we are forgiven for our sins
we are loved, and we know it
we are never alone.

But it also has its duties
we must let our light shine
we must be the opposite of the darkness around us
we must be the light of the world.

Now, sometimes it’s easy to be light
in the middle of Christmas
when all is going well
when our church is growing and getting stronger
when we are surrounded by people we love
it’s easy to shine with love ourselves
to be filled with joy
to be loving and forgiving and generous and kind.

But it’s not always easy to be light
it’s not always easy to point to God
after all our God is not always what and where you expect God to be
our God is a vulnerable child lying in a manger
and our God is a loving healer who reaches out to sinners
and our God is love that is beyond our comprehension or capacity.

My son gave me a plaque that hangs in my kitchen
it says “I asked Jesus how much he loved me,
and he said ‘This much’
and he stretched his arms out wide
and he died.”

That’s all the plaque says, but it still has the power to give me chills
maybe because I remember that while Jesus was doing that
while he was dying on the cross
he was saying “Father forgive my murderers. They don’t know what they are doing.”

Sometimes it’s not easy to be a light that points to that kind of love.

This week it’s been especially hard to be a sign that points to a loving, forgiving God
it’s been hard to consider loving our enemies
our enemies are not abstract
our enemies have made themselves known
it’s been hard to shine in the darkness
the darkness is not out there somewhere
it came close and touched people we love
and the darkness is ugly and unlovable
and still we are called to be a light that shines right in the middle of the darkness
we are called to shine so that everyone will see the glory of our God
we are called to shine so that everyone can see OUR God
the loving and merciful God
the God who cannot be overwhelmed or beaten by the darkness
the God who is light and has no darkness in Him
the God who forgives even from the cross.

To be God’s light in the world, we have to be willing to shine the same way God shines
with love
and mercy
and forgiveness
for our neighbors – and our enemies.

Earlier this week, I didn’t feel like being a light
I wanted vengeance and retribution for what had been done to someone I cared about.

The darkest part of my heart reacted to the darkness and wanted to get even
and I know that I was not the only one who felt that way
it’s normal to feel that way
it’s human
but we weren’t chosen just to be forgiven human beings
we were chosen to be light
to forgive.

So, in the name of the one who called us, I call you to let your light shine
to pray for Kathy and the kids
to pray that those who brought this darkness into their lives will be caught
that the innocent will be protected
but to pray also for those who live in that great darkness
but not to pray for vengeance
rather to let God’s light – the light of love and forgiveness – shine in and through us.

After all, light shows up best in a dark place
the star in the sky can’t be seen when the sun shines and the day is bright
but in the night, it can point the way to something new.

Copyright 2008, Clare Kelley. Used by permission.