‘Arise, shine, your Light has Come’ – Dec 2, 2018

In the movie ‘Home Alone’, the McCallister family are embarking on a vacation to Paris, for Christmas. The trip also includes several members of their extended family. They all gather, eat, sleep and plan on leaving early the next morning.

Kevin is one of the youngest children and he is feeling picked on and unappreciated. After a fight with his older brother, he is sent to bed early, alone to the attic. While he is there, he makes a wish that his family would ‘disappear’ so he could be all alone at Christmas.

During the night, a power outage resets the alarm clocks and causes the family to oversleep. In the confusion and frantic rush to reach their flight on time, Kevin is left behind and the family is unaware, until they’re already airborne.

When Kevin wakes up and finds everyone gone, – he believes his wish has been granted. He is delighted that he is ‘alone’ and can do whatever he pleases. 

Kevin eats junk food, watches scary movies and sleeps where-ever he wants, he doesn’t have to answer to anyone. But when burglars threaten to break into his home, he finally realizes what it means to be ‘alone and vulnerable’. Of course, Kevin outwits the burglars – but loneliness creeps in.

By the end of the movie, Kevin is overjoyed to have his family back; even his annoying brother. Families give us security, love and peace. Kevin learns that making a few sacrifices for others is ultimately better than being ‘home alone’.

When I reflect on that movie, it reminds me of mankind’s relationship with God. You see, while Adam and Eve lived ‘in the garden’ with God, they were content. But eventually, they wondered, if they would be better off not having to rely on him. They thought they might be happier not having to answer to God, because then, – they could do whatever they pleased.

So they took matters into their own hands.

At first, they were surprised and enjoyed their new found freedom. But then, they began to experience the emptiness and loneliness that comes from feeling isolated, separated and at odds with God. They were exposed and afraid.

That is how the Israelites were feeling before the birth of Jesus. The people had rebelled – and God had stopped speaking because no one was listening and obeying. For over 400 years, the Israelites went without a sign, miracle or ‘word of hope’ from God. They felt alone, afraid and hopeless. They cried out and God heard them. At just the right time, he sent his Son into the world ‘to save them and us’ and give us hope again.

John 1:14 reads, “The Word became Incarnate and made His dwelling among us. We have seen His glory, – the glory of the ‘only begotten Son’, – who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.”

And Hebrews 1:3 reads, “The Son is ‘the radiance of God’s Glory’ and the exact representation of his being, ‘sustaining all things’ by his powerful word.”

This Advent season’, I want us to begin thinking about God’s Glory. What does it mean to say that Jesus is ‘God’s Glory revealed’? The whole concept of ‘the glory of the Lord’ surrounds the Christmas story. Isaiah 40:5 proclaims, “And the Glory of the Lord will be revealed, and all mankind together will see it.”

Luke 2:9 reads, “An angel of the Lord appeared to the shepherds, and ‘the glory of the Lord’ shone around them, and they were terrified.”

Finally, Luke 2:32 reads, “You have sent a light for revelation to the Gentiles – and ‘for glory’ to your people Israel.”

At first glance, ‘God’s glory’ seems to be most evident in light. The Gospel of John calls Jesus ‘the light of the world’. The Star of Bethlehem shone light on the manger where Jesus was born. Many artists’ renditions show Jesus standing ‘in a heavenly light’. All of these are meant to represent ‘the Glory of the Lord’.

So light is certainly one part of the equation – but that is just the start. The word Glory can be defined in many ways. In Greek, the word Glory is meant to convey brilliance or radiance. In Hebrew, Glory means; something has weight, heaviness or great worth. Finally in Latin, Glory means honor, majesty or fame.

When we worship and say ‘we give God the glory’, we are using the Latin term. We honor God’s majesty, He is the famous one. Other times, we talk of ‘God’s light shinning all around’. At that point, we are using the Greek understanding of radiance or brilliance.

And when we talk about the depth, mystery or importance of God, we are expressing the Hebrew term. Yet the New Testament, Aramaic definition is a combination of all of these and more. That is because ‘all of these’ are brought together in Jesus the Christ.

The ‘Glory of the Lord’ is ‘a manifestation of God’s attributes’ expressed ‘in the person of Jesus’. It is God’s revelation of his true nature – put into a package that we can finally understand. Let me put it another way, the Bible says everything reveals the Glory of God. All of nature, the stars in the sky and life itself are an expression of God’s glory – they point to Him. Yet they never tell us God’s inner drive. We can see what God did, – but we fail to understand why God did it.

Jesus reveals God’s inner motives. The reason God creates, and redeems – are seen in Jesus – he is God’s truth, – Jesus came to share God’s peace, joy, and hope. But love is the defining character trait.

One of the most difficult parts of the holiday season, for many people, is the reality that, culturally, it has become a family celebration. For those with broken families or fractured relationships, Christmas, – with all its get-togethers, parties and dinners’ only accentuates their loneliness, frustrations and longings. 

But God came to remind us, that we don’t have to be alone and that we should include everyone just as he has embraced us. We are called to be reflectors of God’s light, love and peace. Each of us is ‘a sparkle’, or a sliver of a mirror – that is called to reflect the glory of God.

Thus, Christians are called to ‘let your light shine before mankind, so they may see ‘your good works’, and glorify the Father who is in heaven.” (Matt. 5:16) Our lives then, are to illuminate or direct others to God. Our hope, peace, passion, love and forgiveness are just an outreach of all that God has already promised.

The great Dietrich Bonhoeffer wrote in one of his Christmas sermons, “We are no longer alone. God is with us and we are no longer homeless. A piece of the eternal home is grafted into each of us. For that reason, we ‘grown-ups’ can rejoice with all our heart around the Christmas tree perhaps even more so than the children. We can ‘already’ see the abundance of God’s gifts.

“Just remember ‘all the good things He has given us in the past year’ and, looking at our wondrous tree, feel secure in the promise of “safe lodging” he has prepared for us.”   

What a great insight!

You see, the glory of God is about our enlightenment. It is about God’s love breaking forth in our lives – and into the world. The Word made flesh, than, – is ‘the Word finally making sense to us’. Sometimes we call that the ‘aha moment’ or the ‘hallelujah moment’. That is what Christmas is; it is a reminder of what God did for us in the life of Jesus. God’s glory is seen in the riches, power and majesty of an infinite, eternal God becoming mortal – for our sake.

Put another way, Jesus is the face of God. He is ‘Glory packaged’ as a presentable gift. 

2 Corinthians 4:6 reads, in part, “God made his light shine in our hearts to give us ‘the light of the knowledge of God’s Glory’ displayed in the face of Christ.”

To understand this fully, we must go back to Exodus 33. Here, God is speaking to Moses. The Lord said, “My presence, will go with you, and I will give you rest.”  Then Moses said, “If your presence does not go with us, don’t send us out. We will not be distinguished from ‘all others’ without you.”

God agreed to go with Moses, then Moses asked, “Please, show me your Glory.” (Exodus 33:18) Moses was asking to see the face of God but he also wanted to see everything that God represented. To which God replied, in so many words, “It is more than any one person can handle.”

So Jesus is ‘God’s Glory packaged’ in just the right amount, as to not overwhelm us. And Jesus, like love, is the gift that keeps on giving. Advent then, is truly the season of anticipation and hope. We are seeing the beginning of God’s revelation – in and through Jesus.

His story continues through the miracles, healings and teachings. It is on full display at the crucifixion, – at his death – and made complete in his resurrection. ‘The story of who our God is’, is the Glory of God revealed in Christ Jesus.

Advent is the season for Christians to ‘Arise shine, for your light has come.’ It is a call to arms; a call to share the good news with the lost, the lonely, the afraid, the weak and the crushed in spirit.

For those who already know the Truth, and who have a relationship with Jesus, this is your time to shine. Advent is ‘love come to life’ through a baby, through innocents and through Christ.

Johann Sebastian Bach was born into a musical family in 1685. By the age of ten, both of his parents were dead. Early in his ‘friction-filled life’, the young Bach decided he would write music, but not just any music, …music specifically designed ‘for the glory of God’ and he did.
Most of Bach’s works are explicitly Biblical.

Albert Schweitzer referred to him as the 5th Evangelist or Apostle, – thus comparing him to Matthew, Mark, Luke and John.  At age 17, Bach became the organist at his church; soon thereafter, he was given charge of the entire music ministry.

During Bach’s ministry in Weimar, Germany he wrote a new cantata every month! And during one, 3 year period, he wrote, conducted, orchestrated, and performed (with his choir and orchestra) a new cantata every week! And he continued to write beautiful music even after he went deaf!

No one had any idea what a mark Bach would leave and his legacy still lives on strong over 300 years later. Many say that his music transcends time and space; not because of who he was – but because of the God he pointed to.

At the beginning of every authentic manuscript he wrote, you will find the letters “J.J.” This stands for Jesu Juva (Jesus help me).At the end of each original manuscript you will find the letters “S.D.G.” This stands for Soli Deo Gratia (to God alone the glory or the praise).

Bach’s music is said to lift the heart and bring peace to the soul’. His hope was that people would draw near to God when they heard it.  If each of us is an instrument of God’s glory, how is ‘our music’, our lives drawing in the least and the lost so they can hear the good news?

Our world is filled with people who are home alone. They often have no hope, peace or comfort. The Glory of God, revealed through Jesus is, the good news that changes everything. The question is, are we an honest reflection of His light?

Your assignment is…to invite 2 people to come to church during this Advent season. Connect with someone who is lost or alone and help bring them into the warmth and light of God’s love. God’s light has come, hope is available, So, Arise shine and share ‘the Glory of God’ with others.

Our God is no longer a mystery, — he has a name, it’s Jesus.

Amen.