Psalm 27, Isaiah 9:1-4, Matthew 4:12-23
A little boy named Bobby entered his first science fair in second grade. His Mom had a green thumb, so they decided to experiment with the growth of plants. He took two small green plants and placed one on a sunny windowsill and the other in a cardboard box. He compared their progress. The one on the windowsill grew a couple of inches. It was green with vibrant leaves. The one in the box grew only a little bit. It’s coloring was pale—almost whitish. It leaves were limp and droopy.
Next Bobby cut a hole in one side of the box. He set the box, close to the window with the hole facing the light.
The plant began to improve right away and even grew out through the hole! It grew toward the light and even blossomed! The plant that had been in gloomy darkness. It was all but dead. But then it saw a great light and that changed everything. (modified and used by permission from eSermons.com)
Light. God created us with a natural need and longing for sunshine. All nature is drawn toward light. We need light. We need sunlight. This is the darkest time of year, the season in which we have the least amount of daylight. During this time of year many of us suffer from “seasonal affective disorder” — SAD. It’s symptoms include sadness, low energy, struggles with focusing, and sometimes even suicide! We need light. Simply recognizing that can help!
Darkness can be defined as the partial or total absence of light. The darkness cannot win. Daylight and spring will come again. John’s Gospel tells us in chapter 1, verse 5 “the light shines in the darkness and the darkness did not overcome it.” And again 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.”
We celebrate Jesus coming into our world as the baby of Bethlehem just after the winter solstice—the darkest time of the year! We are now in the season of Epiphany—the season of the growing light and our readings focus on our growing understanding of who Jesus is as our Lord and Savior of the world.
We are often afraid of the dark and unknown. God is not. In Psalm 139:12 the psalmist reminds us that darkness is not dark to God; that the night is as bright as the day to Him. Jesus lights our darkness!
Our opening dialog this morning is from Psalm 27. Note verse one again:
The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear?
The Lord is the stronghold of my life; of whom shall I be afraid.
We need God’s light and love in our lives.
Our reading from Isaiah 9 also focuses on the light and darkness theme. Verse 2 reads:
“The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who lived in the land of the shadow of deep darkness—on them light has shined.”
Our Gospel reading this morning shows how Jesus fulfilled that prophecy as He begins His ministry in Galilee of the Gentiles, the very area prophetically spoken of by Isaiah, pointing to the coming of Christ Jesus.
A couple of quick thoughts regarding our Gospel reading. John’s ministry of announcing Jesus is complete. John is imprisoned. Jesus formally starts His ministry. But where? It is significant that Jesus chooses to begin His ministry not in Jerusalem, but in the land of darkness—not Jerusalem, the center of Judaism.
God’s comes to us to the darkest corners of our lives. You and I know God is always present; always with us. Yet it is in the times when things go all wrong, when we struggle with issues that overwhelm us and flood our souls with chaos, depression, confusion and worry…those are the times we need to deliberately see and sense God with us. Remember Jesus’ title from Isaiah that we have just used during our Christmas season—Immanuel—GOD WITH US! Jesus lights our darkness!
Jesus lights our darkness. Know that. Believe that. Count on it. Trust Him!
Focus for a bit on Psalm 27 again. Verse 1 is well worth memorizing and reviewing often. I challenge you this week to write it down on an index card. Commit it to memory. Think about it. Turn it into a prayer and read it at least seven times through the day, and then again before you go to sleep.
God-in-Christ lights our darkness. Jesus says of Himself, “I am the light of the world” John 8:12. When we know and believe that fear cannot rule over us. He is our fortress and stronghold. He is strength in our weakness, hope in our despair. This precious Psalm is a song of intimate trust in God’s care and presence. It is well worth reading and knowing.
Look at verses 4:
One thing I asked of the Lord, that will I seek after: to live in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to behold the beauty of the Lord and to inquire in His temple.
In all of life, what if you longed for and desired to know God better? The psalmist says, He is the chief thing in life that I long for more than anything else. Consider that as your prayer. Focus on Jesus and ask God to help you know and trust Him more and more, even in the darkest times of your life. Dwelling in His house and inquiring in His temple as the psalmist prays does not mean living at church, but rather, practicing an awareness of God’s presence in our lives. Consciously and intentionally recognize God with you, right here, right now, every moment, every hour, every day of your life.
Look at verse 5:
As the psalmist considers that he goes on to remind himself that God hides us in His shelter in the day of trouble. He will conceal me under the cover of His tent; He will set me high on a rock.
The word “tent” pictures the tabernacle God instructed the Israels to construct and use in their wilderness wonderings. It was the place where sinful and frail people could come before a holy and righteous God. Rather than it being a fearful place, it was a place of hope and comfort; a place for safety and security in the storms of life.
John 1:14 tells us that “the Word became flesh and lived among us.” A literal translation reads “the Word became flesh and tented among us.” The tabernacle that symbolized God’s presence among His people in the Old Testament and the Temple that Solomon built in Jerusalem both point to Jesus and His Incarnation—God’s presence among us in this world. When you read the Lord is my light and salvation in Psalm 27 think Jesus! Jesus lights our darkness!
He is our shelter in the storm. The storm will not last. God’s love and care for you will. He is our Rock of Ages. He is our light and our salvation. An evidence of the Holy Spirit’s work in yours and my life, is our being drawn to that light.
Remember that. Celebrate that. Trust and believe it.
In Jesus’ name. Amen.