Sunday, January 1, 2017

'Before you RISE and SHINE' (a sermon on Isaiah 60:1-6 by Sylvia Jayakaran)

Sermon Title for Jan 01, 2017: “Before you RISE and SHINE”
Bible reading: Isaiah 60:1-6   
Liturgical Season: Epiphany of our Lord
Sermon prepared by: Sylvia Jayakaran

Some of you might know that the prophet Isaiah wrote these sunny words roughly 700 years before the birth of Christ. Perhaps what many people don’t know is that the prophet wrote these hopeful words to people who were living under despair facing the ominous prospect of war and the gloomy shadows of captivity in Babylon.
Isaiah chapter 60 pictures the incredible transformation of Jerusalem filled with glory, light, joy and excitement. The return to God’s favor is seen in earthly terms: fabulous wealth, power, influence. This is quite a stark contrast to the earth we know in its current form - a world filled with wars, gloom and economic uncertainty to name a few. Sounds like the perils of these days have a striking resemblance to that time in which this wonderful message resonated, isn’t it?
Today’s sermon will traverse you into a new perspective, catapult your thought into a world filled with promise, hope and possibilities. For the sake of brevity, I have classified it into subtopics to provide context, but will discuss extensively on one of these subtopics before I make the final tie-in to the central theme of the message.
A.    Who has already come and who is yet to come?
The bible reading from Isaiah indicates that the Messiah Christ Jesus will come. He was to be born in Bethlehem thousands of years ago as baby Jesus.  The Son of God was shining brightly on the first Epiphany day - just as Isaiah prophesied he would! As a matter of fact, the SON was shining so brightly that it caused the wise men/three kings - hundreds of miles away - to RISE and SHINE, to get out of their beds and come to see the new born Christ child. Only one thing now mattered to these wise men: seeing the Son of God their Savior.

We are living in a later era of this verse where we now know that this Christ Jesus- the Savior, lived and died for us. After his resurrection from the dead, we look forward in hope for his coming again in glory as King of Kings and Lord of Lords.

Yes, we are indeed in the last days where we await the second coming of Christ Jesus.

B.    When and why should we rise and shine?

We live in a different time and age than the prophet Isaiah. But we need Isaiah’s sunny encouragement more than ever that something better is yet to come. To understand our course of action, we should identify and define the darkness that surrounds us. War and persecution of Christians are in the headlines on a daily basis. Unbelief and hostility to the Christian faith is on the rise. Ignorance of God’s truth is at an epidemic level in our land.

Do you know anyone today who is in the darkness – perhaps lazy and indifferent – concerning Christ? Fear the swarming darkness of indifference to God’s Word! If this simple truth did strike your heart, you know its time to RISE and SHINE.

The wise men did RISE and SHINE providing a standard of excellence that we can see – to follow our passion and give our best gifts to God. If the wise men were so discerning many thousand years ago and acted on their instincts, don’t we think we have better ideas and opportunities than ever before to RISE and SHINE for Christ?

Our Lord Jesus has provided us much more than gold, incense and myrrh to focus on. God gave his only begotten Son this Epiphany season for sinners like you and me. For those who have been mired with hopelessness, His Son Jesus provides the promise of heaven and the hope that all will be good someday. The Gospel message is to go and share this Christ the Savior to those in need and not be caught up in self promotion. Hence, my fellow believers in Christ, the time to take action is now. So RISE and SHINE in the name of Jesus!

C.    What impact would it make?
The light of Christ drives the darkness out of our hearts and replaces it with the light of His grace. It allows us, the saints of God to let His light shine through the prism of our lives. Some of us might think that saints are this set of perfect people who live perfect lives and performed miracles likes Jesus. When the Bible refers to a “saint”, it actually refers to someone who belongs to God through faith in Jesus Christ.

This Epiphany, my clarion call to one and all is - this Jesus is your Jesus, your Savior, your Lord. We need the light of this Christ Jesus to make us RISE and SHINE so that we make a lasting impact by counteracting the darkness that surrounds us.

As we journey through life, we might find our faith waning, and could even perhaps wander into a twilight zone where we compromise our Christian values simply because we became spiritually careless and accommodated ourselves to the world around us. We get so pre-occupied comparing ourselves with others instead of having Christ as a reference point to behold. If we do consider ourselves in such state, it would not be a bad idea to go back to basics and let this “RISE and SHINE” mantra resonate in our soul.

RISE and SHINE – for we are privileged to live in these last days where we are a real, living, walking testament and fulfillment of Biblical prophecy – We are a holy nation of God’s people – the Holy Christian Church. We come from different countries and backgrounds but we have this Christ in common. We live different lifestyles, have different occupations for a living but we were babies who were once born and baptized in Christ – so we have Christ in common.

We celebrate one Lord. One faith. One baptism. One God and Father who is omnipresent and omniscient. We celebrate one Savior who redeemed us from sin. One mission. One eternity. So RISE and SHINE. Begin - in the name of Jesus - to Dream big this New Year 2017!

Dream dreams that hundreds of thousands would be brought to the knowledge of Christ. Why not?!  Dream big that the Holy Spirit would move in our churches in a marvellous way. Dream big of a time when the church pews will overflow with the love for Christ where church worship is neither traditional nor contemporary and devoid of performance based techniques but transcends to a whole new level where it is marked by the compelling love for Christ.

Dream dreams of a stewardship life where people are thrilled to bring their Epiphany King nothing but their best – where churches are self sufficient and budget battles die. Dream dreams of hundreds more coming into the light of the Son from the scary darkness of unbelief - saved from the horror of hell through the Gospel message that you and I would bring them.

And here’s the reality check. When setting such dream goals and aspiring for it, sometimes things may or may not go our way. It’s OK - remember that Christ is in control, not us. If we need a corporate prayer and fast to get things moving in God’s way, we should RISE and SHINE and do so with gladness and earnest expectation that our combined prayer will be heard in the high heavens.
In closing, what’s the impact we would make? – When we RISE and SHINE, God’s people will become the nation of priests and saints he intended them to be – an example of people who carry His holiness, plan, peace, love, joy and kindness to the watching world around us. That is my prayerful message and wish for you all in this New Year. God bless you!

Closing prayer:

Dear heavenly father,

In earnest expectation, I pray that we have your word inscribed in our hearts and our actions resonating your perfect will. Keep our families in the knowledge and love of Christ so that we can stand before you and proudly say that we contributed in the Gospel mission you set before us. Holy Spirit, fill us in overflowing measure and whisper into our ears what we need to hear or do throughout the coming days. We ask this in the matchless name of Jesus Christ our Lord. – Amen.

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