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Our theme hymn for Advent calls Jesus the “Lord of Light.” It leads us to pray, “Come, light the hearts of all in dark and shadow.” As we wait in stillness, we ask that the Lord would enlighten us, or today people might say, make us “Woke”.
The Jewish leaders of Jesus’ day thought that they were woke, that they were the enlightened ones. They claimed to be able to see through what Jesus was doing and declared that he was doing his miracles by the power of Satan himself. They said that Satan was giving Jesus the ability to do these miracles so that people would be led away from the truth of God which they believed they were teaching.
As Jesus pointed out that their logic was flawed and unenlightened, a woman from the crowd raised her voice and said to him, “Blessed is the womb that carried you, and the breasts at which you nursed!” That was certainly a more enlightened statement than anything the Jewish leaders had to say about Jesus, but Jesus points out that even this statement wasn’t completely enlightened. Mary was indeed blessed to be chosen to give birth to the promised Savior, but she is not the source of enlightenment. Jesus makes it very clear what is. He said, “Even more blessed are those who hear the word of God and keep it.” If you want to be truly enlightened, if you really want to understand what is just and what is oppression, if you want to be considered “woke” by the only one whose opinion really counts, hear the word of God and keep it.
As proof that the majority of the people of his day were not enlightened, Jesus cites the fact that, in spite of seeing all the miraculous signs he had already performed, they were looking for more. They were still in the dark because they were not seeing what his miraculous signs clearly showed, that he is the Lord of Light, the promised Messiah. So, Jesus says the last and greatest sign they will be given is the sign of Jonah. Matthew’s Gospel makes it clear what Jesus meant. Just as Jonah was in the fish for three days and then came out alive, so the son of man will be in the tomb for three days and then come out.
But there is something else about Jonah and the Ninevites and the Queen of the South that Jesus wanted to make clear. When Jonah preached the word, the Ninevites listened, they heard the word of God, they repented and believed. When the Queen of the South heard about the wisdom God gave to Solomon, she made a long and difficult journey to come to hear that wisdom. Both the gentile Ninevites and the gentile Queen showed that they were enlightened. They valued God’s word more than most who were in the presence of Jesus who didn’t seem to care about the word, or what Jesus was saying. They just wanted a sign.
This is a strong warning for us. Of all the groups Jesus mentions, we are most like the Jewish leaders and the sign seekers. Like them, we have been blessed with easy access to God’s word. We don’t have to go very far to get to church. We don’t have to worry about someone seeing us go to church and plotting ways to persecute or arrest us. We have God’s word readily available, even on our phones and tablets. Most of us were raised in Christian homes and can’t remember a time when we didn’t know that Jesus is the Savior. Many have gone to Christian Schools where God’s word is heard many times a day. But, like many in Jesus’ day, we get complacent. We take what we have for granted. We get bored hearing the same old thing. We are tempted to look for a sign, for something miraculous, or something new and exciting. If we aren’t careful, the Queen of the South and the Ninevites will stand in judgment over us because, even with the little opportunity they had to hear God’s word, they listened. They valued God’s word highly.
Our other Scriptures for tonight emphasize the importance of valuing God’s word as the only source of true enlightenment. God, through Isaiah, chided those who sought enlightenment from mediums and spiritists, and dabbling in the Occult. To the law and to the testimony! If people do not speak according to this word, there will be no dawn for them. And in response to the rich man who wanted Lazarus to be sent back from the dead to warn his brothers, Jesus says, ‘If they do not listen to Moses and the Prophets, they will not be convinced even if someone rises from the dead. Mediums and spiritists can’t provide enlightenment. Even miraculous signs like someone coming back from the dead can’t provide enlightenment. God’s word alone has the power to enlighten. It alone has the power to bring people to see the truth that Jesus is indeed the promised Messiah, the one and only Savior.
Jesus is the light of the world. Paul says that the same being who said let there be light at the creation of the world, and there was light, even before the sun, moon and stars were created, is the same being who made his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ. Our enlightenment, our ability to see our sin, the darkness in us, and to see that Jesus is the light that casts out our darkness, to see that he is the one who suffered the outer darkness of hell in our place so that our sin is forgiven; such enlightenment is a miracle that has been worked in our hearts by the Holy Spirit through the word and sacrament.
Are you enlightened? Are you Woke? No one lights a lamp and puts it in a hidden place or under a basket, but on a stand so that those who come in may see the light. If you are enlightened, if the light of Jesus is shining in you, don’t put that light under a basket. Let everyone you meet know that Jesus is the Light of the World. Let them know that if they think they are Woke, but don’t know Jesus as their Savior from sin, they are still in the dark. If you are enlightened, if you know that Jesus is the light of the world who lived and died and rose again so that you can live in the glorious light of heaven forever, then let your light shine. Don’t just hear the word of God, but value it highly, and strive to put what God says into practice every day. Remember that the light within you is like an oil lamp. If the oil is not replenished regularly it will run out. Then your light will flicker, and if it goes out, you will be back in the darkness again. Replenish the oil of your lamp by hearing the word and receiving the sacrament regularly. To the law and to the testimony, without it there is no light of dawn.
Remember, Jesus says that you eye is the lamp of the body. Through your eyes light or darkness enters you. As you read Scripture and see Jesus as your Savior, light enters and fills you. As you read, watch or look at things that reflect the darkness of Satan, violent games, books on worldly philosophy, pornography, darkness enters and fills you. What enters you through your eyes affects your soul. Your eye is the lamp of your body. If you let darkness in it will affect the way you view other people, leading to jealousy and hatred, and even the way you view God. But as light streams in through the reading of Scripture, the way you view other people changes. You are enabled to see them as God sees them, as sinners saved by Jesus, as people who need to have the light of Jesus shine on them as it has on you. It enables you to see your sins, and your daily forgiveness in Jesus.
“For you, O Lord, my soul in stillness waits.” As we wait and meditate on God’s word, by God’s grace we see you as the “Lord of Light, as our only hope of glory.” As we wait, we pray that “your radiance, Lord, would shine in all who look to you, and that you would come to light the hearts of all in dark and shadow.”