This is my sermon from Sunday, November 19. The lesson was Isaiah 9:1-7. A recording of the sermon from Emmanuel is above.
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.
Darkness is a horrible place to be. It doesn’t matter what the darkness is, or where the darkness comes from. Darkness is a horrible place to be. It doesn’t matter if the darkness comes from violence, economic struggles, personal struggles, emotional battles, or deep depression. Darkness is a horrible place to be.
It isn’t just a lack of light. It is a weight that slows you down. It is a chill that you can’t warm up from. It is a barrier between people. It is a lack of hope and a loss of desire. Darkness calls you to hide and withdrawal. Darkness isolates and separates. Darkness divides and destroys. Darkness takes away light. Darkness takes away warmth. Darkness takes away relationships. Darkness takes away confidence. Darkness takes away faith. Darkness wants you alone, thinking and believing there is no one out there for you.
The darkness that Isaiah describes is that the southern kingdom of Judah was surrounded. The northern kingdom of Israel has been destroyed, conquered by the Assyrians. The lands mentioned in the first line of the reading were part of the former kingdom of Israel. Now the capital city of Judah is being threatened by the neighboring nations of the Edomites and Philistines, the prophet Isaiah urges him to trust in God for the survival of the kingdom. But King Ahaz makes a deal with the Assyrians to become a puppet state and assure Judah’s survival. Judah was independent in name only.
God’s chosen people have seen their nation split in half, one half conquered and it’s people dispersed, and the other half have come under the rule of that conqueror. They are living in darkness. Their leaders have encouraged them to worship other gods and to not listen to, to not obey the LORD their God.
But the darkness of judgment and rebellion would not cover them forever.
One of the verses from Scripture that I turn to when I feel darkness coming and building in my life is from Psalm 30, verse 5. God’s anger is but for a moment; God’s favor is for a lifetime. Weeping may linger for the night, but joy comes with the morning.
When we sin, when we know that we have done wrong, we feel that we cannot undo the wrong we have done. And we can’t. The bell cannot be unrung. We must live with our choices and actions.
But that does not mean we are not forgiven. God’s anger is but for a moment; God’s favor is for a lifetime.
We believe that in the Old Testament, God is a god of anger and wrath and vengeance. There are passages that lead to that conclusion. But if you read the Old Testament, actually work and fight through the stories, you will see a God of patience and forgiveness. You will encounter a God who is rejected and ignored, one who is thrown aside and cast off, but one who continues to listen and to love. Sometimes that love is tough. Sometimes, painful lessons are learned. Sometimes, many times, bad things happen.
Any parent knows that the painful lessons that their child learns are the most painful to them. There is a parenting expression, “This is going to hurt me more than it hurts you.” It doesn’t make sense until you have to watch someone deal with the consequences of their actions. And it hurts to watch someone go through it.
Why do we think that God doesn’t feel that type of pain, that type of hurt?
God’s anger is but for a moment; God’s favor is for a lifetime.
When we encounter darkness, we assume things will always be dark. The darkness continues. The darkness only gets darker. We only get more isolated and alone, but usually of our own choosing. We are angry and upset with ourselves, and cannot love ourselves. Therefore, we think, we cannot be loved. The darkness only gets darker.
Weeping may linger for the night, but joy comes with the morning.
The sun comes up in the morning. While the nights are getting longer, in about a month, always around Christmas, the days begin to get longer. While the darkness grows for a while, the light will come and the light will shine.
As Jesus said, I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness but will have the light of life.
The people of Judah thought God had abandoned them. In reality, they had abandoned God. They turned from God and God’s commands. They did what they wanted to do, and ignored and rejected God’s will. God’s anger is but for a moment; God’s favor is for a lifetime. They felt guilty. They felt alone. They felt the darkness. Weeping may linger for the night, but joy comes with the morning.
And for the people of Judah, the prophet Isaiah promised, 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.
Isaiah goes onto talk about what the Light, who the Light, will be. This part of the text, giving the names by which the Light will be called, Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace are often read during Advent or during our Christmas worship. They tell of what the Light will do.
But for the people who first heard and read this, the fact that light was coming was good news.
In the times and days of darkness that we all endure, remember that there is light. Some of us are more prone, more likely to dwell in the darkness; that is how we live. But we need to remember, we need to be reminded that God’s favor is for a lifetime. Joy comes with the morning. 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.
Jesus spoke to them, saying, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness but will have the light of life.”
Christ came into the world He created, being the Light that the darkness cannot over come, calling and beckoning to all who would believe in His name. He died so that no darkness, not that of sin, not that of death, not that of human failures and frailties, can separate us from Him, His love and His light.
Pastor Brian's Page
Pastor Brian Robert Campbell has served at Our Savior's and Emmanuel since August 1, 2011, and began serving Nazareth on December 1, 2015.
Pastor Brian is originally from Saginaw, Michigan. He graduated from Alma College with a B.A. in Business Administration, and worked for the Saginaw Public Schools' Community Education Department for 17 years before answering the call to ministry. He graduated with a M. Div. from the Lutheran Theological Seminary at Gettysburg in 2011. ONE in Christ Lutheran Parish is his first call.
He is the only child of Robert and Charlotte Campbell, both who have entered the Church Eternal.
He is accompanied in ministry by his faithful bulldogge Ananias, who regularly writes for our newsletter. His articles are archived here.
He is a fan of sports teams from his native Michigan, especially the Tigers and the Lions. But we tolerate him despite that.
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