ADVENT | Light Has Come
The Prophecy Candle: “The Light of Hope”
December 3rd, 2017
Pastor Duane Smets
I. The Dark
II. The Day
III. The Dawn
Good morning. It’s wonderful to be with you all here today. If you’re new and checking out our church, welcome. We hope you have a great time with us today worshipping the God of the universe. I’m Duane, the main preaching pastor here. There’s six of us pastors who serve under Jesus to love and care for His church. And we’d love to meet you and help you any way we can in your pursuit of God.
Well, today is a special Sunday because it’s the kickoff of Advent this year. Advent means coming and is the month Christians have taken aside to celebrate the coming of God into the world as a little baby in Jesus Christ. This year our theme for Advent is light. In John 8:12 Jesus says, "I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”
There are four weeks to Advent: the Prophecy Candle of Hope, the Bethlehem Candle of Humility, the Shepherds Candle of Joy and the Angels Candle of Peace. So for this week and the prophecy candle, we’re going to talk about “The Light of Hope” from one of the books in the Bible written by men God called His prophets, who spoke and wrote on His behalf.
The passage verses we’re going to look at are from Isaiah 9. Why don’t you go ahead and stand with me as we read them, acknowledge them as God’s words sent to us and thank God for them.
“The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who dwelt in a land of deep darkness, on them has light shined…For to us a child is born, to us, a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder, and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.” -1 Thessalonians 5:5-8
Pastoral Declaration: This is the Word of the Lord.
Congregational Response: Thanks, Be To God.
In 1879 Thomas Edison invented the light bulb and the entire world changed. For us today it’s hard to imagine a world without smartphones, computers, tv’s, phones, and all other kinds of digital technology and things run by electricity. But even more than that try for a minute to imagine a world without light.
Before the light bulb, the world in large lived in darkness. The only way you could ever have light in your home or your workplace was with candles. Imagine that. Electricity and the light bulb changed everything. Now with the simple flick of a button, we can dispel the darkness and light up anyplace.
David Whidden argues in his book on light that a shift occurred in our collective consciousness as a human race as a result. Before the light bulb, we primarily lived in the dark. Darkness was permeating. Once the light bulb came and we could produce light on our own, we became our own conquerors of darkness no longer hobbled and bound to the gift of the sun shining on a clear day.
And yet, we still feel and sense the darkness, don’t we? Living in San Diego and where our city lies in its longitude and latitude on the globe means that this time of year, for most of us it’s dark when we get up to go to work and dark when we go home. And I don’t know about you, but I don’t like it! I don’t like the dark. I like the sun!
In the passage we’re looking at today it brings up darkness, what it is, who God is and what He has done to conquer what is truly dark. So three things to walk through today from our passage: The Dark, The Day and The Dawn. And the one line I’m going to use as our take-home line throughout Advent for us is this: “There is light is in the Son.”
I. The Dark
Let’s jump into our first point, “The Dark.” Our Prophet for today, Isaiah, who wrote the words of the Bible we’re looking at today was writing in about 740 BC. A long time ago. Verse 1 of chapter 9, which we didn’t read brings up God’s people who lived in the lands of Zebulun and Naphtali. About 6 to 7 years before Isaiah wrote this, we attacked by this group of people called the Assyrians who slaughter a bunch of their people. It was a time verse 1 says of great “gloom” and “anguish.” A dark season.
Now, the way the prophets worked and the way God used them in history and in the Bible was to take the real-life situation of what was going on and speak to that but not only to that but to use it to speak to the entire human situation and God’s plan for human history and human redemption and salvation.
The view of the Bible and the view of God in the Bible is one which pictures all of history past, present, and future as part of a plan unfolding that God is orchestrating and working in toward a great and happy ending. So at times, God would give His prophets small pictures of the future in what He planned. The pictures are not always clear and are usually in bits, but what is given provides great comfort and an answer to the deepest needs and cries of our soul…especially because they are promises given from a God who always keeps His promises.
This is one of the reasons, at times prophets will speak in past tense language like they do in the verses we are looking at today. Even though Isaiah, at the time was looking into the future at something God would do, because it was so sure that it would take place, a promise of God, he speaks in past tense…the people HAVE seen a great light, on them HAS light shone, a child IS born, a son IS given, who’s name SHALL be called.
Grammatically, what he’s doing is a called a future present. And that’s exactly what the Bible’s definition of hope is. Biblical hope is not just wishful thinking, hoping something might take place, it’s assured confidence that it will. And the reason why the people of Zebulun and Naphtali and why people like you and I need that kind of hope is because of darkness. Because there is a darkness.
There is a darkness in our land, not only when the sun goes does, but also a spiritual darkness where the people of our land in large do not know and worship God and the goodness of living in and under His light. And not only is there is a spiritual darkness in our land but there is a darkness deep in our hearts where we need God’s Son to break in and deliver and dispel us from the fear, guilt and shame that keep us in the shadows.
So let’s talk about darkness for a minute and what it is. Before light there is a darkness. And what our text is telling us about the reality of our situation is that we are a people who have walked in darkness and dwelt in darkness. Dark people with dark lives. So what is the dark?
Thomas Aquinas was one of the greatest pastors and theologians of all of Christian history who lived and wrote and taught and preached in the 13th century was a man who loved nature, loved the Bible and loved the Church. And light, or a theology of illumination is what guided all of his life and study. He saw light as the central and key principle for understanding everything. Aquinas says there are three kinds of darkness where we need God’s light to invade overcome. He says there is a darkness of ignorance, a darkness of sin and a darkness of condemnation.
The darkness of ignorance is our inability to know God and be in friendship and fellowship with Him, even though everything around us in creation and nature screams His name. As Romans 1:20-21 says,
“[God’s] invisible attributes, His eternal power, and divine nature have been clearly perceived ever since the creation of the world in the things that have been made. So they (we) are without excuse. For although they (we) knew God, they (we) did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they (we) became future in their (our) thinking, and their (our) foolish hearts were darkened.”
So we can know God through the light He gives in nature, the sun points to the beautiful and wonderful Creator and that is sound reasoning but there’s a darkness in us which prohibits us to come to love our maker. Darkness.
The darkness of sin is our inability to think about God correctly. Sin entered the world through Adam, the first man whose mind got twisted and darkened where he began to believe lies about himself and the God who made Him. Sin always twists and distorts things which darkens us. 2 Peter 3:16-17 in the Bible says our ignorance leads to instability and the twisting of the light of God’s word and truth given to us.
So we can know God through the light He gives not only in our ability to reason but also through His written Word, the Bible, but our reasoning gets twisted and darkened so we start to tend to think maybe the Bible isn’t true, maybe God doesn’t really love us or have our best interests in mind or maybe He’s not really in control. The result once again is we fail to come into loving relationship with him. Darkness.
Lastly the darkness of condemnation is what we do to ourselves. In fear we make rash decisions or manipulative ones trying to scheme our way ahead. We built ourselves up in guilt, telling ourselves how much we’ve failed and then get caught in a loop of constantly just trying and trying to do better and never succeeding. And in shame we feel we’re not worthy or valuable, that there’s something wrong with us and because of that God would never want us or love us. Darkness.
There’s a darkness. A real darkness. A darkness in our land. A darkness in our minds. And a darkness in our hearts. I think Johnny Cash summed it up well when he sang,
“Can you see this opposition
Comes rising up sometimes?
That dreadful imposition
Comes blacking in my mind
And then I see a darkness
Oh no, I see a darkness
I hope that somehow you
Can save me from this darkness”
There is a darkness. But God is a God of light and gives us the hope, the promise, the prophecy of light that conquers the darkness, the light of the son of God. “There is light is in the Son.” So let’s begin to look at the Son in our next point, “The Day.”
II. The Day
Verse two of our text says though we are people who have walked in darkness and dwell in darkness that God has shone a great light for us to see. Light is one of the linking themes throughout the entire story of the Bible.
Light is actually the very first thing God creates on the very first page of the Bible. Here’s those words:
"In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth. The earth was without form and void, and darkness was over the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters. And God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light.”
And then verse 5 says there was evening and there was morning the first day. So every day we see the sunrise it’s meant to tell us something. It’s meant to tell us there’s a God who shines light into the darkness.
The last book of the Bible, Revelation ends with all of the darkness being dispelled and God’s light shining on His people forever more. The very last chapter of the Bible Revelation 22 reads, “Night will be no more. They (God’s people) will need no light of lamp or sun, for the Lord God will be their light, and they will reign forever and ever.”
When our passage for today from Isaiah talks about the great light, this is what it’s talking about, the longing in our heart to bask in the glory of the Son of God, with the darkness and all the things of the darkness gone forevermore.
The physics of light are an interesting thing. Light is not a substance. It’s a form of energy, electromagnetic radiation to be exact. It’s not matter. It doesn’t have any subsistence to it. Yet, without light, we are unable to see anything. When we open our eyes light floods into the optic nerve and colors up the world.
For this reason, some have said sight is the superior sense, the best of the five senses because we always know better with sight. Not surprisingly, the most frequent miracle Jesus did was healing blind people who could not see. Everyone wants to see. Seeing is important both physically and spiritually.
Aquinas says God’s antidote of light for darkness comes to us in three ways:
To the darkness of ignorance > God gives the light of nature.
To the darkness of sin > God gives the light of grace
To the darkness of condemnation > God gives the light of glory
Think about the light of nature.
Psalm 36:9 says, “ For with you, O LORD, is the fountain of life; in your light do we see light.”
And Psalm 19:1 “The heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above proclaims his handiwork.”
Literally, nothing can live without light. That’s why there’s no life on any other planet we’ve discovered yet. None has a sun at the right distance like ours so that there can be life. David Whidden on his book on God’s light says, “God is constantly reaching toward us through a variety of means, internal and external, to communicate who he is and that we should love him.”
Think about the light of grace. Though we are all sinners and have given into sinful things, God has not rejected us but reached out to us anyway. Which is astounding. 1 John 1:5 says God is light and there is no darkness in Him at all. And yet He has reached out to us who are in the dark.
2 Peter 2:9 says, “(God) called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.”
Ephesians 5:8-10 says it this way,
“At one time you were darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light, for the fruit of light is found in all that is good and right and true, and try to discern what is pleasing to the Lord. 11 Take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness.”
And one more,
“You are all children of light, children of the day. We are not of the night or of the darkness. So then let us not sleep, as others do, but let us keep awake and be sober. For those who sleep, sleep at night, and those who get drunk, are drunk at night. But since we belong to the day, let us be sober, having put on the breastplate of faith and love, and for a helmet the hope of salvation.” -1 Thessalonians 5:5-8
Did you catch the family language in both the Ephesians and Thessalonians passages? We are children of the light. That’s family language meaning God is the heavenly father who has been gracious to us, even though we’ve sinned and distanced ourselves from Him. He has given us the light of grace.
Lastly, think about the light of glory. The light of glory very simply put is communion with God, where we love and enjoy Him. The more we experience and walk in God’s light the more we come to know about God and the more we come then come to love Him and the more we come to love God the more we want to know Him. It’s in this context of friendship and fellowship with God that we receive more and more of His light, the light of glory. Aquinas called it the beautific vision.
This is the kind of days we long for, the great light we need to shine into our darkness. The light of nature, the light of grace and the light of glory all work together to dispel the darkness and bring us into God’s wonderful light. Aquinas gives an example of the tree to help us see this.
He says through the light of nature I can know about a tree, how its bark, roots and leave work together and how the tree was created by God for human flourishing. Under the light of grace, we learn how humans fell into sin by taking the fruit from a tree and are restored to life by the death of God’s Son on a tree. In the light of glory, we live in the brightness of the Son of God who sits on the throne and gives us physical and spiritual fruit from the tree of life.
This Advent season, where do you need the light of God to shine into your life?
Are you needing to see the light of God’s goodness in nature, in what He has created? Jonathan Edwards, the great Puritan pastor and theologian called it a “God-entranced view of all things.” Where we connect everything we see and experience back to God.
Are you needing to see the light of God’s grace where there is forgiveness for sin and the works of darkness? Are your faults and failures keeping you from coming to God? Are fear, guilt, and shame dragging you down and casting a dark shadow on your soul?
Are you needing to see the light of God’s glory, where you commune in sweet fellowship with God as His chosen and precious beloved son or daughter? Maybe it’s been a long time or never when you’ve spent good quality time with God, basking in His light.
God’s light is good and all of His light comes to us through the Son, through whom He created nature, came to us in the flesh to conquer sin and carries us into glory. “There is light in the Son.” Let’s turn our attention now to focus specifically on God’s Son in our final point for today, “The Dawn."
III. The Dawn
Back to our Isaiah 9 passage. Now, you’ll notice I skipped verse 3-5 and just used verse 2 and 6 for our purposes today. The reason is because verse 2 gives the promise of this light that would come and then verses 3-5 are basically three verses describing how great that is. It’s not until verse 6 that Isaiah tells us what this light is. And what we find out is this light is a person. So look again with me at verse 6.
“For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder, and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.” - Isaiah 9:6
The great light that will be seen and that will shine is a male child, a son who will be born. He will be a wonderful counselor. So He will counsel people, helping them. He will be mighty God. So this is God using His might and power and coming to earth. He is the essence of the everlasting Father come and He will bring peace to hearts and mind and to the land one day as its prince.
Now, check this out. Jesus is born. Thirty years later He starts His teaching, preaching and healing ministry. And at the very start of it, here’s what Matthew, one of Jesus’ disciples, says happened.
"Leaving Nazareth he went and lived in Capernaum by the sea, in the territory of Zebulun and Naphtali, so that what was spoken by the prophet Isaiah might be fulfilled: “The land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali, the way of the sea, beyond the Jordan, Galilee of the Gentiles— the people dwelling in darkness have seen a great light, and for those dwelling in the region and shadow of death, on them a light has dawned.” From that time Jesus began to preach, saying, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” - Matthew 4:13-17
So cool. So this is 740 years later and Jesus goes to the very place where those Assyrians killed a bunch of the people of Zebulun and Naphtali that was the event God used to have Isaiah give this prophecy about doing something for the whole human race to address why people ever kill people in the first place. God promises a light to come one day that will be born into the world as God in the flesh.
So Jesus goes there, verse 14 says to FULFILL what Isaiah the prophet spoke. How does He fulfill it? By being the great light. In His presence and activity, Jesus says at the end of verse 16 that the “light has dawned.”
Jesus saw Himself as the light. John 8:12 says ”I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” Jesus was and is the light. Darkness is real but in Jesus, the dawn of morning comes.
Jesus comes showing power over nature, healing people and performing all kinds of miracles and teaching us the true nature of things. He is the light of nature.
Jesus comes into the world as God in the flesh as a little baby and then makes it His mission to die on a cross so the God’s light of grace might come to us conquering our darkness of our sin. He is the light of grace.
Jesus comes into the world in order to win our hearts and one take us to His heavenly home in glorious light where we get rest in sweet fellowship with God and one another for eternity. He is the light of glory.
There is a darkness. We need the light. God’s light comes to us in His Son, Jesus Christ. In Him light has dawned! Sight is a precious thing. There is nothing better than to see the glory of God in the face of Christ and have Him shine on us.
The Dark, The Day and the Dawn. We started out today talking about Thomas Edison and the light bulb. We end today talking about Jesus Christ, the true and better light who doesn’t just light up a room at the flick of a switch but lights up our hearts and the entire world with His goodness and grace.
So we want to rejoice in that, we want to honor Jesus, give Him thanks and commune with the Father through Him. The way we do that each week here at our church is through this thing we call communion or The Lord’s Supper where each of us who are believers in Christ go to a table lit up with some candlelight and we take a piece of bread as Jesus body, the physical life He came into the world with and we dip it in the wine or the juice as His blood He shed on the cross so God’s light could come into our lives. And then we eat and tangibly taste and know God goodness to us.
Why don’t you stand with me? We’ll read some words of confession and then assurance out loud together and then I’ll pray and we’ll partake of these elements of God’s light to us.
Lord we confess we have walked in darkness, giving into dark thinking, dark deeds, and darkened hearts. We need you light and love to shine into our lives we pray.
God has called us out of the darkness and brought us into His wonderful light through His Son Jesus Christ. Glory be to His name!