(sermon note: 11-21 sermon note)
But there will be no gloom for those who were in anguish. In the former time he brought into contempt the land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali, but in the latter time he will make glorious the way of the sea, the land beyond the Jordan, Galilee of the nations.
The people who walked in darkness
have seen a great light;
those who lived in a land of deep darkness—
on them light has shined.
You have multiplied the nation,
you have increased its joy;
they rejoice before you
as with joy at the harvest,
as people exult when dividing plunder.
For the yoke of their burden,
and the bar across their shoulders,
the rod of their oppressor,
you have broken as on the day of Midian.
For all the boots of the tramping warriors
and all the garments rolled in blood
shall be burned as fuel for the fire.
For a child has been born for us,
a son given to us;
authority rests upon his shoulders;
and he is named
Wonderful Counsellor, Mighty God,
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
His authority shall grow continually,
and there shall be endless peace
for the throne of David and his kingdom.
He will establish and uphold it
with justice and with righteousness
from this time onwards and for evermore.
The zeal of the Lord of hosts will do this.
This morning’s reading reminds me of the one about a man named Larry who went to the doctor one day. The doctor checked him over and said, “Larry, everything looks great. How are you doing mentally and emotionally? Are you at peace with God?” Larry replied, “God and I are tight. He knows I have poor eyesight, so He’s fixed it so when I get up in the middle of the night to go to the bathroom, poof! The light goes on. When I’m done, poof! The light goes off.” “Wow, that’s incredible,” the doctor said. A little later in the day, the doctor called Larry’s wife. “Bonnie,” he said, “Larry is doing fine! But I had to call you because I’m in awe of his relationship with God. Is it true that he gets up during the night, and poof, the light goes on in the bathroom, and when he’s done, poof, the light goes off?” “Oh, no,” exclaimed Bonnie. “He’s peeing in the refrigerator again!”
Aaaah, to be old and easily confused…I long for the day! I suppose I could turn my refrigerator into a commode in the meantime but I imagine my wife and kids won’t be as forgiving. I guess I’ll stick to the actual commode until at least the kids are out of the house. Wives are far too forgiving…
There’s something about the image of a refrigerator door opening and closing in the dead of night that can be likened to our reading for this morning. On the one hand, the light can be so bright, so disorienting amidst the grogginess of a disrupted slumber. But as your eyes adjust to the blinding glare, you quickly remember the goodness that awaits within the fridge. All those uneaten leftovers and culinary delights waiting to be put together. Food and drink, the sustenance of life! And those middle-of-the-night cravings can be so enticing! Just a little snack to help you sleep and hold you over until the morning. Of course, don’t let a dietician catch wind of your after-hours snacking! Definitely NOT what your body needs, all those calories without the body’s active ability to put them to use. On the other hand, the warm glow of the refrigerator light can represent life and satisfaction and bodily needs being met. Light itself can feed and sustain as well as reveal that which feeds and sustains. Light is a powerful source of life.
It’s no wonder that Jesus refers to himself as the “light of the world” as we heard in our reading from John. He was and is the “great light” shone on the people living in darkness that Isaiah referenced in his prophecy. Jesus not only feeds and sustains through his mighty words and miraculous deeds but he also reveals the full glory of God which feeds and sustains us. His light provides warmth and nutrients as well as reveals our sickness through sin. Jesus’ light is both diagnostic and healing. We need his light to help us not only realize just how sick we are but also to help us heal. What a blessing to receive his light in our lives!
I appreciate how our readings have us focus on his light instead of his kingly reign as we celebrate a rather antiquated Christian festival today, Christ the King Sunday. Yes, Christ is a ruler but he neither sits on a throne nor does he govern his people in the way a king typically does. No, Christ lives among us and within us, not sitting away from us to be worshipped and idolized. Christ teaches us to love and serve each other and govern each other with kindness and fairness. He doesn’t coerce his rule upon us but rather encourages and persuades his rule upon us. His rule is a good rule, his reign a beneficial reign. His rule and reign bring about life and love. So many kings’ and queens’ reigns throughout history have been defined by fear and violence and yet Jesus’ reign was and is defined by nothing but peace and trust, unless you adhere to the biblical understanding of “fear” as “respect” and “awe.” Jesus is more than a king. Jesus is a supreme ruler. Jesus is, as both our readings lift up, a light. Jesus is an awareness and an understanding. Jesus is hope and love…new life! Lives are forever changed under his rule. Once you claim him as your ruler, your life is forever changed. You have unending purpose and joy. You no longer live in fear and doubt. You live in certainty and freedom! You live for someone else besides yourself! You live, gladly live, to serve him and those around you! His rule and reign is unlike any other rule and reign. He is the greatest ruler to have ever lived!
Jesus said in John, “I have come as light into the world, so that everyone who believes in me should not remain in the darkness.” (12:46) The hope and joy found in him heals all sickness and despair. We simply can’t remain in the darkness once we claim him as the ruler of our lives. His power is just that strong and all-encompassing! And the thing about his power and light is that it doesn’t simply reside in him. No, his light transfers to us once we believe and trust in him. Paul writes in his second letter to the Corinthians, “for it is the God who said, ‘Let light shine out of darkness,’ who was shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.” (4:6) You see, Christ’s true power is that he reigns within us, not outside of us. His light goes within us so it becomes ever brighter, ever more dispersed throughout the world. He can do only so much on his own but infinitely more working in and through us. We are always multiplying, always growing, always spreading his love around the world. Christians, true Christians, heed his command as mentioned in Matthew’s gospel, “In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven.” (5:16) Our light shines and goes into others who in turn shine their lights before others. Christ’s reign exponentially and infinitely grows through us!
So as we celebrate this “Christ the Ruler” Sunday, let us gladly welcome his reign and rule in our lives. It is a good reign, “continually growing” and consisting of “endless peace” as suggested by Isaiah. Let us give thanks that his reign will last forever and be assured in his hope and love. Thanks be to God!
In the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.