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3rd Sunday after Epiphany
Isaiah 8:12-9:2

Grace, mercy, and peace to you from God our Father and our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ!  In the name of Jesus, dear friends in Christ, If you’ve ever lived in a home with young children, you can understand this.  From time to time during the night one of our children will wake up or maybe I’ll be heading to bed after they’re already in bed and of course you don’t turn the lights on because you don’t want to wake them.  Sometimes a child is crying at night and so I stumble out of bed into their dark room, my eyes still adjusting to the darkness while I’m guessing my way around, you know, it’s always a bit scary.  Perhaps it’s not so much having to judge where the wall is, or a door, or a bed – and the occasional running into one of those things – far more scary is that unknown toy that one of the children might have conveniently left on the floor, like a matchbox car that will cause you to slip and come crashing to the floor or a Barbie or that mysterious toy that just so happens to have some sharp pointy piece sticking up just waiting for you to unsuspectingly plant your foot down on.  Ouch!!  There’s always an element of fear in walking around in dark places.  Have you been there?

Well, there’s another “darkness” far more scary than a dark room with pointy objects on the floor.  God’s Word often equates sin and unbelief and its effects to darkness.  Without God what are you left with?  A universe of blind, random, purposeless events.  Life really has no design, no meaning, nothing really good or evil, nothing after life.  The world becomes just one big unguided system of random chances.  In other words…darkness.  And that’s the world we live in- a sinful, broken world full of the darkness of sin and unbelief.

Yet, in this dark world God hasn’t left himself without testimony.  They way that God has knit people together everyone knows that there is a God whether they admit it or not.  For example, let’s say that I did step on some point little toy in my child’s room and cut my foot, do you know what happens?  Tiny blood vessels in the skin start bleeding, within seconds cells near the cut send out a signal telling near blood vessels to narrow and limit blood flow until other cells can come and form clots to stop the bleeding at the same time another chemical signal is sent out to recruit white blood cells relaxing other vessels to increase blood flow to the cut and those white blood cells fight off infection.  Now, someone had to design that!  Someone who is wise and powerful, someone who is God.  All of nature functions because of God behind it who designed it!  And this God must also be perfect and holy because he’s placed inside of each one of us this thing called a conscience that makes judgments about our actions whether they are right or wrong, good or bad.  And what does everyone’s conscience do?  It accuses them.  Why?  Because it shows that we have sinned against God, we haven’t lived up to his standard of perfection.  Our conscience tells us we deserve his punishment.

So what do people do?  We look for answers to quiet this conscience.  We look to anything that will stop that accusing finger saying, “You’re a sinner!”  And we’re willing to look anywhere.  We’ll to education, or we’ll look to doing great projects, or we’ll bury ourselves in our jobs, or we’ll try to accumulate enough stuff, or we’ll look to the pleasures of life, or we’ll try drugs or alcohol, or sinful addictions.  Our text even mentions looking to sorcerers, to witches, to spiritists, to mediums who supposedly consult dead people for advice, the ancient astrologists, psychics, and horoscopes.  In other words, we’ll look just about anywhere!  But the problems is?  No answers for that guilty, accusing conscience.

And so, what’s the result?  This is what our text says, “Distressed and hungry, they will roam through the land; when they are famished, they will become enraged and, looking upward, will curse their king and their God.  Then they will look toward the earth and see only distress and darkness and fearful gloom, and they will be thrust into utter darkness.”  Why?  Because none of those things have…light!  None of those things can drive out the darkness of sin, the darkness of a guilty conscience, and the gloom comes from the fact that we’re not at peace with God, that we deserve his punishment.  And if apart from God someone thinks their life is fine and dandy, one day they’ll be plastered face to face with the reality of darkness when their confronted with death and being thrust into the utter darkness of hell.

And that’s the dark world we live in.  A world of sickness, death, tragic death – news told us this week of a 14 year old who stabbed her sister over 30 times to death, massacres, violence, crime, injustice, anger and rage.  We live in a world famished for light.  Without light life is a scary walk in darkness.  We often say we like light- we like well-lit rooms and sunny days – but yet, we too find ourselves groping into the darkness of this world.  Where do we go for answers?  Where do we go for help?  Where do we go for advice?  Inside ourselves, books, internet, worldly friends?  God’s message is: It’s insane to look anywhere else but the true place.  Darkness cannot produce light, all darkness can do is snuff out smoldering light, light must come from an outside source.

The region of Galilee in Israel was also a region of worldly darkness.  Being at the northern part of Israel it was the place where the Israelites met the Gentiles.  And in many ways instead of the light of God’s people driving the darkness of unbelief away, God’s people were swallowed by the darkness of the world.  They allowed the Gentiles to live among them, allowed their secular ideas, their heathen worship practices, Galilee was a place mixed with believers and unbelievers.  In fact, in Jesus’ day the city of Tiberias’ in Galilee had a claim to fame: a temple to the false god “Pan.”  Right in the place that was supposed to be the area of God’s people was an idolatrous shrine!!  It was dark.  So, God humbled them.  Galilee also the land of Zebulun and Naphtali was the first place where the Assyrians came in Isaiah’s day to rout and defeat the Israelites – the land was once ravaged and destroyed.

But then, in this very land of darkness, light showed up!  Jesus showed up doing things like changing water to wine, healing the lame, giving sight to the blind.  He came saying things like, “I am the way the truth and the life.”  “Take heart son, your sins are forgiven.” “I am the Good Shepherd who lays down His life for the sheep.”  “I am the Light of the world.”  It was like rays of light shooting across the dark sky.  No more distress, no more gloom, not eternally.  Why?  Because Jesus came to deal with the thing that causes all our distress and gloom and darkness.

Finally, all our distress, frustrations, head-aches, and heart aches are caused by sin or its effects.  If we want an answer to those things then we need and answer to sin.  And in Jesus we have such an answer.  Jesus confronted the darkness of the sin of the world, he confronted the darkness of YOUR sin by going to the cross, by feeling the horror of sin’s punishment in his body, by dying and being placed in a dark tomb.  But, that wasn’t the end!  He came bursting forth from that tomb alive, sin had been paid, your sins forgiven!  Our relationship with God has been repaired!  The harm of our sins has been healed.  Darkness driven away and the light of God’s love shines forth.

And the people of Galilee got to see it!  Can you imagine?  Can you imagine hearing Jesus’ teach?  Can you imagine watching Jesus heal a disease, watching Jesus lift a dead girl out of bed alive?  Can you imagine drinking the water that He changed to wine or tasting bread and fish he used to feed 5,000?  The people in the darkness of Galilee saw light!

And you and I have seen it too!  No, not with our eyes, but through the Word of God.  Notice what else our text said?  “To the law and to the testimony.”  In other word God urges us to His Word, the Bible, for light, for answers in a dark world.  In God’s Word there’s healing for my soul.  In His Word is real spiritual light to see my way on the road to eternal life.  In His Word He drives away the gloom of a guilty conscience, assures me of forgiveness calming my distress from my failures.

Yes, we live in a dark world.  We live in a world broken with sin.  Life may be difficult.  There may be times of distress and gloom and heartache and head ache.  Times you feel “dark.”  But you have the light.

You know, I now keep my cell phone or a flashlight beside my bed.  If I have to get up in the middle of the night most of the times I’ll grab it and use it to light my way – it takes the fear and uncertainty out of walk into a dark room.  Well, in this dark world, you also have a light.  The light of the truth, the light of God’s Word, the light by which you KNOW your sins are forgiven.  The light by which you KNOW you are at peace with God.  You know heaven is where you are headed.  And because you know it, the darkness, gloom, and distress of your life is driven away, for Jesus is your true light in this dark world!  Amen.