Mark E. Ryman; Fourth Sunday of Advent, Year B; December 24, 2017
Advent is all about darkness and light. One of my favorite light and dark illustrations—in fact, I think I’ve told it from this pulpit—is visiting caverns where they always turn off all the lights once you are deep underground. Your eyes try to adjust to the pitch blackness but try as you might, you cannot see anything. There has to be at least a little light or nothing can be seen. You literally cannot see your hand in front of your face.
Let us pray. Lord Jesus, Light of the world, enlighten the eyes of our hearts. Show us your will and strengthen us with power in our inmost beings so that we may do your will on earth as it is in heaven, where you dwell with your Father and Spirit, forever one God. Amen.
Some people choose to live in the darkness, dwelling years in caves deep underground, never coming out to see the light. People don’t even know they are there. Sometimes they come close, as they explore a cave, but they choose to stay hidden in the darkness. Now I suppose that if we knew for certain that those people were in there, we could assemble a search team that could find them.
But they don’t want to be found. They like the dark. Everything looks better. They are dirty and don’t know it. They don’t have the ability to read and therefore learn. The outside world is purposely put away from sight.
The Children’s Talk
People have been stumbling around in the darkness for a very long time. And I’m not talking about cave-dwellers. The world is filled with top-dwellers who stumble about in a darkness of their own choosing. They choose not to see the light because they have determined to not hear the word of God. This, after all, is where the light shines; this is where the hidden mysteries of life are unveiled. It happens in the Scriptures. Listen to what Paul says in our Second Reading today:
The revealing of the mystery that has been kept secret or silent for long ages has been unveiled, revealed, disclosed, brought to light…how? Through the prophetic writings.
And how is one strengthened in this revelation? Through the preaching of the gospel of Jesus Christ. That’s it. There is no other way.
Now, you may decide that going to university is the answer, that you’ll get all the revelations of light one would ever need there. The university is a grand thing; it changed my life. But knowledge cannot strengthen you in the inner being, nor will math, history, science, or language bring you to faith, let alone the obedience of faith. Scripture does that. Sola Scriptura, as the Reformers said. The written and preached Word alone brings us to faith and obedience. Only God’s Word pulls back the darkness and shows us the light that is himself.
We cannot find this great light on our own. Nor will the universities disclose it. Even seminaries can’t do that, as too many of our seminary graduates who sadly, become pastors prove out. They walk in a desperate darkness, leading others into the deep caverns of hell.
We simply cannot find the light on our own. Left to our own devices, we will proudly call the darkness light and stumble proudly about through life.
In ages past, even the angels did not comprehend the mystery of the ages. These beings who lived with God in inapproachable light, did not see the light. They did not understand the mystery any better than someone who thinks that amassing knowledge or doing fine deeds is the way to God.
Paul says to the Ephesians that it was God’s plan to make plain what was undiscoverable for all the ages of antiquity, “…to bring to light…what is the plan of the mystery hidden for ages in God” (Eph 3:9).
This is “the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge.” Instead of being filled with facts and histories, we are filled with all the fullness of God” (Eph 3:19).
This is the revelation: that God in Christ fills us with light where there had only been darkness before. The light that he fills us with is himself. And he does it through the preaching of his Word. There is no other way. If we think there’s a chance at heaven because we’re nice people or good lookin’ or well-to-do or American or Lutheran or anything other than Christ alone, then we stumble in a darkness of our own making. We can’t see our hands before our faces. We don’t know how dirty we are. We are cut off from God and there is no way out of the darkness, unless someone shines the light of the world into that darkness.
That light is shone through the Word alone because it is a revelation, a revealed word from God, not human knowledge or wisdom. We cannot work it out on our own and come to a knowledge of the truth. God had to reveal it to us. The truth is that light who the bottom-dwellers are afraid of. The truth is that Light of the world whom the Father sent to bring us out of deep darkness and into his marvelous light.
I urge you, knowing that the light is unveiled through the Word alone, to use the brochure in your bulletin to read through the Bible with us this year. If you already have one, give the one you received today to someone else. Talk to them throughout the year. Share with them what God is bringing to light. And pray for them, that they are strengthened according to the gospel and the preaching of Jesus Christ.
Now to him who is able to establish you according to my gospel and the preaching of Jesus Christ, according to the revelation of the mystery which has been kept in silence through times eternal, but now is unveiled, and by the Scriptures of the prophets, according to the commandment of the eternal God, is made known to all the nations for the obedience of faith: to the only wise God, through Jesus Christ, to whom be the glory for ever. Amen.