jesus is the light. jesus is the glory
ARISE, SHINE, FOR YOUR LIGHT AS COME, AND THE GLORY OF THE LORD RISES UPON YOU. — ISAIAH 60:1
My mom buys Christmas presents all year long.
When I was in high school, I was convinced she was a crazy person. She would find some Pyrex dish set or the perfect pair of leather gloves on clearance in March, and she’d snatch those babies right up. And here’s the thing—she would celebrate like it was Christmas morning for her! She delighted in the idea of getting nice gifts at discount prices. She knew no matter how long ‘til Christmas, it was coming nonetheless, and she was always prepared. In a somewhat related, even more aggressively early plan, she bought an industrial sized spool of white satin ribbon when I was in high school. I remember asking her why at the store. Her answer? It was for my wedding. My wedding?! I was absolutely mortified! So were my siblings when they found out. So, of course, we teased her mercilessly for it! But here’s the dirty truth: she used that ribbon in ALL FIVE of our weddings over the span of a decade. She certainly had the last laugh. And when I think of it now, while it still makes me chuckle, I’m no longer mortified. I’m impressed. What foresight! What intention and planning! Way to go, Mom. She had plans, she prepared, and she was ready for all our weddings and our Christmases. And she still is. Christmas is always coming in my mom’s world, even on December 26th when the sales start, and you can bet she’s preparing.
But my mom’s got nothing on God’s Christmas preparations.
You see, God planned out and prepared for Christmas from before the beginning of time. He set his glorious “God with us” plan in motion from eternity past. And throughout the Old Testament we see his preparations in the form of promises and prophecies that a Savior would come and bring light into this dark world. That’s the promise of our verse—a promise God made to his people some five hundred years before the birth of Christ. I love this specific promise because of the symbolism in it. God uses the dawning of light to communicate the glory of Christ’s coming. It speaks of victory over the darkness in our world and in our hearts. It’s a promise God’s people desperately needed to hear so many years ago. And it’s a promise for us. Let’s take a minute and consider it.
The need is desperate.
The book of Isaiah, where we find our verse, is a book about God’s people far from home, living in captivity for seventy years under the heavy hand of God’s discipline for their constant sin and rebellion. When we get to chapter 60 (where we find our verse), they’ve just come out of captivity, they’ve returned to the ruined city of Zion (Jerusalem), and they are still broken. One might think they'd have learned their lesson, that they’d get their act together, that they’d be good, at least for a while. But already they’re caught up in sin, and their captivity has only served to make them painfully aware of how completely incapable they are of being good and following God as they should. So, instead of making excuses or asking God to go easy on them, they confess their sins and their helplessness to change. They say, “So justice is far from us, and righteousness does not reach us. We look for light, but all is darkness; for brightness, but we walk in deep shadows. Like the blind we grope along the wall, feeling our way like people without eyes…For our offenses are many in your sight, and our sins testify against us” (Isaiah 59: 9-10, 12a). What a bleak picture. They liken their sin to being lost in the dark, groping along the wall and finding no way out. These are people who are broken by their sin and helpless to do anything about it. Their only hope is to cry out to God for help.
When God hears their confession, the text says that “he was appalled that there was no one to intervene; so his own arm achieved salvation for him” (Isaiah 59:16). God was appalled at their helplessness. He was appalled that there was no one to intervene on their behalf. So, God did what only God can do: his own arm worked salvation for them. Here, we see God’s Christmas plan revealed. Here, we see him make preparations for his people to experience freedom from their sins. Here, God makes a covenant (an unbreakable promise) to send a Redeemer to save them (see Isaiah 59:20-21). And right after God declares his plan of salvation, he tells them just what it will look like in our verse. His salvation is light breaking into the darkness! It is the people of God rising up out of the darkness and shining! It is the glory of the Lord resting on his people! The coming of the Redeemer is like the coming of the sun after the long dark night. And oh what beautiful news for the desperate, dark heart!
Jesus is the light! Jesus is the glory!
Jesus is the fulfillment of the promise in our verse. Jesus is the light who broke into our dark world! Jesus is the dawn of the new day! Jesus is the glory of God, come to shine in our hearts! Jesus said, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life” (John 8:12). Jesus gives light and life to all who follow him. But he isn’t just the light promised in our verse, he’s also the glory of God. Jesus “is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his being” (Hebrews 1:3). This verse tells us that when we see Jesus, we see God. And he is GLORIOUS.
This is for us.
This isn’t just a “way back then” story. This is a “right-now,” “we need to hear this today” kind of story. You see, we are those people too. We are people groping along the wall in the dark, looking for someone to help us figure this life out. We know the deep darkness in our souls, we feel the deep sadness and longing in our world. Our need is just as desperate as their need was so long ago. And when we cry out to God for salvation, when we confess our darkness and our helplessness, God gives us forgiveness and light. Our God has done for us what we were helpless to do for ourselves. Truly, “[our] light has come, and the glory of the LORD rises upon [us]” (Isaiah 60:1). Our light is Jesus. He is God, and he is glorious. He is God’s good Christmas plan fulfilled. May his plan be fulfilled in our own lives. This is our light, our glory, our salvation. Arise and shine!
Thanks for reading,
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ON THE PODCAST
Light for the Helpless and Hopeless // Natalie Abbott
Happy December! Join Natalie Abbott, co-founder of Dwell Differently, as she digs into the book of Isaiah today, exploring our verse for the month in its context to help us understand it at an even deeper level. See anew the hope that Israel had as they awaited a Savior, the hope that we have today, and the sure hope that is still yet to come when the Lord comes again and we will be with him. May you arise and shine the light of Jesus today, and invite people into his light all month long!