Sermon - Rev Jack Arnold
Church of the Faithful Centurion - Descanso, California
Today’s sermon ties together the propers, that is to say the prayer and readings for this week. Due to calendar considerations, we do not oft get to celebrate the Second Sunday after Christmas as there are only 12 days in Christmastide, but this is one of those years!
Consider these words from the Collect, “…God, who hast poured upon us the new light of thine incarnate Word; Grant that the same light enkindled in our hearts may shine forth in our lives…”
First, note God has given us the New Light of Jesus Christ in the world and in our lives as the Word Incarnate, or the Word in the Flesh. We did not earn it He gave it to us! Gave, as in we did nothing to deserve it. It is a gift of God’s wonderful Grace! Once we receive it however, in order to show that we do have it, we have to perform actions with it! If we just say we have it and don’t act accordingly than we are not truly followers of God. We are asking God to guide us in our actions that show we do have His Word within us.
It is easy to read the words of His Word and not act upon them. Sadly far too many people in this world do this. However it is much harder to put His Word into practice but that is what we must do in order to follow Him. With the help of the Holy Ghost, we can act upon His Word and have His Light shine forth in our lives. When His Light shines in our lives it will be very evident. A stark contrast for sure from the Old Man. Our old sinful selves were dull and dark but our new selves will be bright and shining forth His Word for all the world to see. This will only be possible if we allow the Holy Spirit into our hearts and provide us guidance. Also we will have to listen to that guidance in order for His Word to shine!
The reading used for the Epistle is not an Epistle as such, but a portion of the Book of Isaiah, one of the Old Testament books filled with New Testament ideas and thoughts. Isaiah is pointing out what God will do for us, if we will but allow Him in. He will break us from the prison known as sin and bring us to true freedom.
In the reading, Isaiah says what we should all be saying, The Lord has selected us to pass on His Good Tidings to all, to tell the world the Good News of the Lord Jesus! To comfort those in need, to bring happiness where there is heaviness, to talk of the Glory of God! Good News indeed for those of us who live in a fallen world where there is very little Good news, especially these days! Jesus proclaims liberty to us, the former captives of the sin that would otherwise bring us to a final death. Instead of death, He proclaims light and light to all the hearts who accept Him.
On the surface, in the Gospel, Matthew is just relating the historical fact of Joseph being told to go back into Israel with Mary and Jesus, that all was safe for the time being. Yet, there is more. The verses also recall the threat to Jesus’ life from Herod and sends Joseph and his family to take up residence in Nazareth in fulfillment of the prophecy that the King of Kings would be called a Nazarene.
So, what of us? How do we fit in to all this?
We are to spread the light unto the world, to be beacons, directing the people of the World to follow Christ and not the World. We are lamp bearers, torch bearers, bringing the light of Scripture unto the darkest places. We are like the light of Galadriel given to Frodo in Lord of the Rings, that it might be a light “unto the darkest places.” Indeed, this world is dark, a lot like the world of Mordor, also from Lord of the Rings. Even when we despair and all seems hopeless, with Christ and the Holy Ghost in our hearts, we can ride out amidst the darkness of the world and triumph over what seems like overwhelming odds, when the evil folk outnumber the good folk. With this rallying to our King, we can defeat anything evil throws at us. We know in the end our side wins for all eternity. We have the Holy Spirit to comfort and guide us in difficult times and the wonderful guide of Scripture to guide us.
So too shall Scripture be a light for us and others in the darkest times and places on this planet. Christ is the great guiding star, like the North Star for sailors of old to navigate by. So too shall we navigate by Christ as our great guiding star. If we hold the light up, we shall never fall and stumble. Without light we will fall and stumble. So, the obvious solution to our problems when we are troubled is to turn back and hold up the light to light our way.
That is to say, to return to the Scriptures and His Word and consult Him for guidance and not look for true guidance from the heart of man. We know that the heart of man is fallible and will get us spiritually lost. However the Holy Spirit is infallible and will not get us spiritually lost. Listen to the guidance of the Holy Spirit and all will be well.
In order to listen, we need to allow the Holy Ghost to enter in our hearts and open us to change our ways to God’s ways. We have to be ready, willing and able to receive Him and to spread His Word, to have a true solid, Christian faith. Only then can we go forth and spread the Good News as God has instructed us. We can’t go forth and spread the Good News, if we do not have it within us via the Holy Ghost.
In order to be of help to others who would come to Christ, we must walk the walk besides talking the talk; we must not be as hypocrites, saying one thing but doing another. We do not want to be like the Pharisees of old, with their lavish prayers and gestures in the public. But we must be like the publican who would not so much as lift His eyes up onto the heavens. We must have a humble, hearty and contrite spirit, to spread the Word of the Lord to those who need to hear it most.
The time has come to show the light unto the world. The time has come to choose God or Satan. The choice is like those in the Lord of the Rings. Do we choose the Light, like the Men of the West and Aragorn of Gondor, or do we choose the forces of Darkness, of Mordor and their allies? Who shall we choose? Our actions shall show our hearts. “For where your heart is, there shall your treasure be also.”
Heaven is at the end of an uphill trail. The easy downhill trail does not lead to the summit.
The time is now, not tomorrow. The time has come, indeed. How will you ACT?
It is by our actions we are known.
Be of God - Live of God - Act of God
 No so surprising a comparison as you might think if you knew little of literature. The great fantasy and children’s writers, John Ronald Reuel (JRR) Tolkien, Clive Stapleton (CS) Lewis and Gilbert Keith (GK) Chesterton were all friends and more importantly, devoted well educated Christians. While they are famous for their apparently secular fantasy writings, there is a Christian theme woven through each of their works.
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