Two Journeys Ministry
In-Depth Biblical Content by Pastor Andy Davis

A Great Light

Series: Christmas Season

A Great Light

December 19, 2021 | Andy Davis
Isaiah 9:1-7
The Birth of Christ, The Person of Christ

The people walking in darkness have seen a great light in Jesus Christ. Andy covers Isaiah 9:1-7 and Luke 2:8-14 and examines the darkness that Christ saved us from.



Turn your Bibles this morning to Isaiah 9. We're going to be going back and forth between Isaiah 9 and Luke 2 as we celebrate the birth of Christ. On Christmas Eve in 1841, Queen Victoria's German husband, Prince Albert, set up the first Tannenbaum, first Christmas tree in the history of England in Windsor Castle. The tree was decorated with various artistic ornaments, very costly and beautiful. And in order to show the beauty and the artistry of these ornaments, the tree was also lit with dozens of actual white candles, like the kind you light with flame, stuck to the branches with wax. This tradition caught on in Victorian England and soon spread across the ocean to America. President Franklin Pierce set up a Christmas tree, the first one, in the White House in 1856, and the tradition's been a fixture in our celebration of Christmas ever since.

Now, I can hardly imagine the number of fires that needed to be put out from time to time. I mean, here the pine is combustible. If you don't keep the tree watered, you know what happens. The thing starts to get shriveled up. And to have actual burning candles stuck to the branches with wax, I don't know, sounds dangerous to me, but apparently they would light them, watch them, and then put them all out. They didn't go to bed with them on, so they weren't that foolish. In 1882, however, the tradition took a decided turn toward the safer side. Two years before that, Thomas Edison had invented the electric light bulb, and in 1882, his good friend, Edward Hibberd Johnson, applied the new technology to the Christmas tree. At a townhouse 136 East 36th Street in New York City, Johnson set up a tree by the street side window of his parlor in full display of the pedestrians that bustle passed. Now, Johnson had hand wired 80 red, white, and blue electric light bulbs, encasing them in delicate glass eggs of those colors and strung them together around the branches of his tree. He then placed the tree on a revolving base, a pedestal powered by a generator. The effect was stunning. New Yorkers stood in large numbers, transfixed on the sidewalk outside his home, gazing at this rotating, lit up tree. In subsequent years, Johnson kept increasing the number of bulbs on the tree. Of course, Johnson and Edison saw these as a commercial venture and made lots of money off of these early strings of Christmas lights. They were a luxury item. Each string cost $12. Now you need to understand just how much money that was back then. That would be roughly $340 per light string today. So aren't you glad the prices come down?

Friends, Christmas is a season of lights. This is one of my favorite parts of Christmas, the way that people and towns and cities decorate with lights. One of my favorite childhood memories when I was growing up in Boston, Eastern Massachusetts, we would drive from my home in Framingham and we'd go into the big city in Boston and see the lights of the Boston Common. And so, the city would drape long strings of lights on these big trees in the Common, they would go right up to the top of the tree. I don't know how they would do that, but some of those trees were 60, 70 feet high, and it was just spectacular. So also in our region, you'd drive around, you probably have some of your favorite houses to go look at. I don't know how people do it and the amount of work it takes to put out some of these light displays, but they're marvelous. Even here in our city, right here on Mangum Street, if you go a little bit further, there's some blue lights that are just vivid and spectacular and very pretty. I like to drive around trees that are hung with lights and just see them kind of rotate in my eyes. I feel like I'm looking, I don't know, like the DNA of the cell or something like that. That's just me. I'm weird. I'm geeky that way. But you go around and the lights just are kind of rotating in your eyes and they're beautiful. Even the Lucky Strike Water Tower is decorated. So that's a good thing, I guess. But it's beautiful.

Now for me as a Christian, these colored lights represent the birth of Jesus Christ into the world. And Jesus said in John 8:12, "I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life." In order to understand, however, the gift of this light that Jesus is, we need to also to understand the darkness that preceded his coming and has characterized the world since his coming. The darkness that prevails even to this present day. It is a powerful darkness. It is a pervasive darkness. It is a darkness that in some senses can be felt. It is a gloomy, deep, thick darkness, the darkness of the land of the shadow of death.

Now, a number of years ago, I experienced a very deep, powerful darkness in a way I'd never experienced it before. For many years our family enjoyed a vacation time just over the border in Southern Virginia at Lake Gaston. We used to love going there, and I would enjoy the beautiful fall foliage in a one-way bike ride from our home in Bahama to Lake Gaston. And it was a wonderful time, usually. But that year my ride turned into somewhat of a nightmare. I got a very late start and I entirely lost my mind. I mean, my simple ability to calculate time, how many daylight hours there were left in the day and when the sunset was going to happen. These are things I should have known, and that the hour I was setting out, I wouldn't make it, but I was determined to uphold my tradition and do this ride. And I had my smartphone with me, so what could happen? So, you know, safety net, I figured I'd be fine. So the day was spectacular. It was lovely. The weather was perfect and off I went, mile after mile. But the shadows lengthened more and more and finally, the sunset. I was shocked. Didn't see it coming. I had a few more twilight minutes to work with, but I was many miles from my destination. It wasn't even close. And pretty soon, I was cast into total darkness. Then I pulled over, unclipped from my pedals, got down and pulled out my smartphone. Now, my smartphone was more or less at the end of its life, and I was using a satellite app called MapMyRide, which sucked the battery life out of my phone. It was just in my little pouch back there, just kind of running away for a while, at least it had been until probably about an hour before I pulled out my phone. Because when I pulled it out, it was entirely dead. I had nothing.

And so now I'm in incommunicado in a very rural part of Northern North Carolina and heading near the border. And the night, that was a weird night. It was entirely devoid of light. I looked up, I couldn't see anything. I think there was a cloud cover. So there were no stars, no moon, nothing. And in that part of where I was, there was no electric light either. There was no light of houses. I was in a very remote area and I was in great danger. I was a man walking in darkness. I couldn't see the edge of the road. So I couldn't ride my bike anymore. And it was a very dangerous time. And I realize how much of our life and our safety depends on light. I mean, light itself provides food through photosynthesis, through even all of the creatures that eat the green plants depend on light to live. And without light, we can't move around. We don't know where we're going. And so I felt myself going off the road numbers of times. Well, today in order to understand the gift of the light of God that is Jesus I want to probe that darkness. I want to have a sense of that darkness and then be able to see spectacularly the light that shines in the darkness.

I. A People Walking in Darkness

So look at Isaiah 9:2 and the text there, "The people walking in darkness," it says, "have seen a great light; on those living in the land of the shadow of death a light has dawned." Now, let's understand the immediate context there. If you were to go back to the end of chapter 8 in Isaiah 8:19-21, it says there, "When men tell you to consult mediums and spiritists who whisper and mutter, should not a people inquire of their God? Why consult the dead on behalf of the living? To the law and to the testimony, if they do not speak according to this word, they have no light of dawn. Distressed and hungry, they will roam through the land; and when they are famished, they will become enraged and looking upward will curse their king and their God." So this is an intense spiritual darkness that Isaiah's talking about, the nation of Israel walking in spiritual darkness. They had imitated the wicked pagan religions of the nations that were around them and in their midst, including Baal worship, and the Ashtoreth and Molech, child sacrifice, fertility rituals. Utter wickedness. They had rejected furthermore, the word of God. And they were seeking spiritual truth from other sources. So they were into occult practices. They were consulting mediums and spiritists, consulting the dead on behalf of the living. So this is séances and necromancy and witchcraft. Remember how King Saul at the end of his life visited a witch in Endor and sought information about his own future. But the word of God, the pure word of God, the laws of Moses and all the scriptures that followed, they had rejected that truth. And that's why Isaiah cries out to them, to the law, and to the testimony, "Go to the word of God not to all these occultic sources." And he stated clearly that if they did not speak according to this light, the light of the word of God, they had no light. They were in darkness. They were a people walking in darkness.

And that darkness resulted in them being incredibly angry, intensely angry. They were enraged at life. They were enraged at God. There's a text that says, "A man's own folly ruins his life, but his heart rages against the Lord." And so by our sins, we destroy our world and then we blame God. And so these people were like that. They were looking upward and cursing God. That's the nature of their darkness. And this terrible spiritual condition of Israel was the darkness that Isaiah writes about. And it prevailed over those six centuries, right through the time of the birth of Christ, because that darkness is captured in the words of prophecy, this ancient prophecy. And so that's the nature of the darkness into which Christ was born. And the good news comes with a simple turn of the phrase, a single word saying that the reign of darkness would come to an end, "Nevertheless," verse 1, "Nevertheless, there will be no more gloom for those who were in distress.” A pure, a perfect, and eternal light was coming into the world." And that light would drive away forever that darkness that he just described at the end of chapter 8.

Now, darkness is a powerful symbol in the Bible. Throughout the Bible, darkness is a symbol of evil, of a world gone astray from God. Darkness, first and foremost represents evil, anti-God, or the absence of the goodness of God. Right from the beginning, Genesis 1:3-4, “God said, ‘Let there be light,’ and there was light. And God saw that the light was good, and he separated the light from the darkness.’” He doesn't commend the darkness. He says that the light is good. And so in the text you heard Wes read earlier, 1 John 1:5, “This is the message we have heard from him and declare to you, God is light and in him, there is no darkness at all." Therefore, darkness represents evil. It represents the absence of God, the opposite of everything God is. It also represents Satan and his evil kingdom, a kingdom of darkness. Colossians 1:13 says that, “He [God] has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of his beloved Son.” A dominion of darkness where Paul writes at the end of Ephesians 6:12, "For we wrestle not with flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness and against the spiritual force of evil in the heavenly places." So this is the darkness we also now experience apart from Christ.

Darkness also historically has represented ignorance. That's represented ignorance, not knowing the truth. We speak for example of the Middle Ages as being the dark ages. People use that expression to speak of the effect of marauding barbarians like the Visigoths and the Vandals and the Franks and the Angles and the Saxons, the Huns and the Vikings that had no respect for learning and culture. They crushed the remnants of the Western Roman empire, destroying libraries, burning scrolls, destroying culture, art, and sinking people into the darkness of ignorance, a lack of knowledge. Well, that's a secular view of darkness, the dark ages. The Bible has, however, a similar sense of ignorance being darkness, the mental process of darkness, of not knowing the truth of God, of not knowing the Bible, not knowing what God says. That's darkness of not knowing God himself and turning away from the true God to idols, to dark images and a dark and wicked lifestyle that flows from that ignorance. Ephesians 4:17-18 captures it very well, "You must no longer live as the Gentiles do in the futility of their thinking. They're darkened in their understanding and separated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them due to the hardening of their hearts." So that's a mental, moral darkness that comes on people. Psalm 119:105 says, "The word of God is a lamp to our feet and a light to our path." So therefore, darkness represents not knowing the word of God, walking in the darkness. You don't know the Scripture.

And this spiritual blindness engulfs the entirety of our existence. It characterizes everything. Jesus said in Matthew 6:22-23, "The eye is the lamp of the body. If your eyes are good, your whole body will be full of light. But if your eyes are bad, your whole body will be full of darkness. And if then that light within you is darkness, how great is that darkness?" You know he is not speaking about physical light there, but spiritual light of truth and of the word of God. So darkness represents the evil life that flows from that ignorance, from that moral, spiritual ignorance, people stumbling in the darkness. They don't know which way to go. They don't know how to live. That's what it means to walk in darkness. Isaiah 59:9-10 captures it very well, "Justice is far from us. Righteousness does not reach us. We look for lights, but all is darkness; for brightness, but we walk in deep shadows. Like the blind, we grope along the wall, feeling our way like men without eyes. At midday, we stumble as if it were twilight. Among the strong, we are like the dead." Isaiah was so good at that visual imagery. It's so rich, the book of Isaiah. And you get the picture of people without eyes groping by feel along a wall, feeling for some place to turn or where to go. It's the picture of walking in darkness.

The Bible has many descriptions of the dark life that flows from this. Titus 3:3 for example says, "At one time we were foolish, disobedient, deceived, and enslaved by all kinds of passions and pleasures. We lived in malice and envy, being hated and hating one another." Doesn't that characterize a lot of the darkness we see today? People who are hated and hate one another, and they walk in immorality and wickedness and don't know that what they're doing is evil and wrong.

Darkness also represents the illusion of thinking you can get away with the dark things you're doing, like the darkness hides others from knowing what you're doing. Isaiah 29:15 speaks especially vertically that people think they can hide what they're doing from God. Isaiah 29:15 says, "Woe to those who go to great depths to hide their plans from the Lord, who do their work in darkness and think, 'Who sees us? Who will know?'" And John 3:20, Jesus says, "Everyone who does evil hates the light and will not come into the light for fear that his deeds will be exposed." So people are under the illusion that they can do these evil things and will never be caught and nobody will ever know, they can do them in secret and God does not see.

Darkness also represents a persistent, willful spiritual blindness so that you cannot see what is right in front of you. You can't recognize the truth though it shines brightly right in front of you. 2 Corinthians 4:4, it says, "The god of this age [Satan] has blinded the minds of unbelievers so they cannot see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ who is the image of God." So this beautiful brightness of Christ shining right in front of them and they can't see it because Satan has blinded them.

Darkness also represents hopelessness. If hope is a feeling that the future is bright, then hopelessness must be a feeling that the future is dark. We're not going to anything good. I mean, nothing good is going to come from all of this. Job talks about this in Job 30:26, "Yet when I hope for good, evil came; when I looked for light, then came darkness." “So as I look ahead for the rest of my life, it's just darkness. I don't see anything worth living for. And then after that, who knows? Who knows? Grave is just nothing but darkness.” So the essence of this hopelessness then is terror of death, fear of death, which stands over everything we do and mocks it. Look again at our texts. Look at Isaiah 9:2, "The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of the shadow of death a light has dawned." So the terror of death is acute because death cannot be predicted. It comes unannounced whenever it will, and it instantly ends everything we hope for in this life. Hebrews 2 says that before Christ came, people walk daily in the fear of death. Death loomed darkly, standing over us at every moment. Like you can picture the Grim Reaper and that shroud with that scythe. And you never know when the scythe is going to swing. You just never know. And so then what is the point of all we strive for, all of our projects, all of our love? All of the things we hope for in this world come to nothing because of death. We must all die and leave it behind. And within a short time, no one on earth will even know that we were ever alive and none of the projects we worked on will be standing. They'll all be gone. The darkness of the grave then comes. And what is that? Job 10:20-22 Job said, "Are not my days, my few days almost over? Then I go to the place of no return, to the land of gloom and deep shadow, to the land of deepest night, of deep shadow, and disorder where even the light is like darkness." We know from the book of Job that's the way he saw the grave in that he didn't have that hope of resurrection like we do.

Darkness also represents judgment from God. Sometimes God just brought darkness on people, physical darkness to judge them. Like in the 10 plagues, remember one of the plagues was the plague of darkness that came on Egypt. Exodus 10:21, “The Lord said to Moses, ‘Stretch out your hand toward the sky so that darkness will spread over Egypt, darkness that can be felt.’" And again, at the end of the world, Revelation 16:10, "The fifth angel poured out his bowl on the throne of the beast and his kingdom [the antichrist’s kingdom] was plunged into darkness." It's just a judgment of God, “If you're going to live a dark life, I'm going to actually take physical light away.” It's a judgment. And so also a spiritual darkness can be a judgment from God as well. If you turn away from the light you have, you'll have even less light.

Finally, darkness represents eternal damnation in hell. The absence of every good gift of God, an eternal blindness, no beauty, no goodness, no blessing, just wrath and judgment from God being on the outside of everything good and stripped of every good and perfect gift. As Matthew 8:12 speaks of being, “thrown outside into the darkness where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth." That's how Jesus described hell. So these are the dimensions, the biblical dimensions of darkness. This is what it means in Isaiah 9:2, when it speaks of a people walking in darkness, a mental darkness, a moral darkness, emotional darkness, and especially spiritual darkness, to be without hope and without God in the world.

Now, friends, apart from Jesus Christ, the same darkness is over our world today. Don't be surprised at what we're seeing in our culture, in current events, and worldwide. Don't be surprised. It's the same thing. This is the darkness. Satan continues to spread the darkness of his lies and his hatred of God to blind people's minds and harden people's hearts and to send people false teachers who are, as Jesus said, "The blind leading the blind." those in darkness, leading others in darkness. 

II. A Great Light has Dawned

Well, that dear friends, is why this light of Christmas is so beautiful. So radiantly beautiful, a great light in Christ has dawned. Look again at verse 2, "The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of the shadow of death, a light has dawned." Through the prophetic gift of Isaiah, God predicted the coming of his only begotten Son in terms of a great light that would dawn. As John puts it, "In him [Christ] was life and that life was the light of men. And the light shines in the darkness and the darkness has not understood it." So Isaiah predicted the coming of a light that would drive away forever the deep darkness of the people of God, a great light that would dawn forever. And it all started on the darkened hills outside Bethlehem, where a group of shepherds were just out there watching their sheep.

So if you look, you can stay with your finger in Isaiah 9 because we're going to go back and forth. But over to Luke chapter 2:8-9, very familiar, "And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. And an angel of the Lord appeared to them and the glory of the Lord shown around them and they were terrified." Number of years ago, I went on a mission trip to Kenya and ministered in different parts of the country, but much of the summer I spent out in the rural parts, the farm areas of Kenya. I never realized how accustomed I was as an American to electric light extending the day. It's like when the sun sets, the day is really just getting started for us. Edison, we're way past that, I mean, it's just the city never sleeps. And so I'm just used to that. Well, out there in that rural area, when the sun went down, they had some Coleman lanterns and they had some fires and they finished eating and all that. And then shortly after that, they went to bed. The day was over. And I remember looking out over a valley and seeing almost no light at all. We're just used to light all day long and into the night, into midnight. Well, these simple shepherds are outside Bethlehem and they're guarding their flocks at night and there's that dark mantle of the night sky. Probably they maybe had some stars that they could look at, and they were used to it. They're used to being out there. But imagine what that must have been like. And there was no electric light back then. There was nothing that would light up a night except fire. That's all there was. Maybe they had a fire, maybe they didn't. They're just sitting out there. Then suddenly, don't you love that word? Suddenly, an angel appears and their night is just ripped apart by this radiant lights. Luke tells us, the angel of the Lord appeared, and with him was the glory of the Lord. This radiant light came. God's glory has that power to do that. As a matter of fact, our future heavenly home will be lit for all eternity with the light of the glory of God in Christ. The new Jerusalem will be lit up with it. As Revelation 21 says, "The city does not need the sun or the moon to shine on it for the glory of God gives it light and the lamb is its lamp, and the nations will walk by its light."

Well, the reaction by the shepherds was predictable. I love the KJV. It has it best. "They were sore afraid." Isn't that awesome? Sore afraid. I mean, they were terrified. And so the angel speaks the words that angels must always speak when they come doing their business, "Don't be afraid." It's like when you're in heavenly angel school and you get sent on a mission, that's the first thing you always need to say to the people, "Don't be afraid or fear not." And so the angel says that. Just like the Son of God himself, the angel did not descend from heaven to earth to destroy people, but rather that people might be saved. And so the angel comes to give this wonderful good news that he had been tasked to announce. So just picture it. There's this radiant light around this individual, terrified shepherds looking at him. And here come these words that change history, "I bring you good news of a great joy that will be for all people. Today, in the town of David, a savior has been born to you. He is Christ the Lord. And this will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger." Well, dear friends, this is the whole point of Christmas, the reality of who this baby was, what he was coming to do, and the angel calls it good news of a great joy for all people. Now, Isaiah, in our passage, likens it to a vast celebration. In Isaiah 9:3, it says, "They rejoice before you as people rejoice at the harvest, as men rejoice when dividing the plunder." So there's this vast celebration of the giving of Jesus and the giving of Jesus Christ as Savior of the world is a limitless source of joy. He's a spring of water welling up to eternal life.

Now, many of you may say, "Pastor, if I could just be honest, if you don't know this, this isn't news to me. We've had Christmas a lot." I just want to say, when you've been in one pulpit for 20... This is my 24th Christmas message. You run out of new ideas. It's a bit of a challenge. And the older I get, I don't know if you older people can relate, the faster my life is going. It's like a truck with its brakes out. So, "Oh, it's Christmas again, what shall I say?" But here's the thing, I know that you've heard this before. I know you're like, "How is this news? Even it's good new, how is it news? I've heard this before." But the more I've contemplated this, the more I realize, you have only begun to scratch the surface of what we're talking about here and so have I.

We have not the tiniest fraction of a millionth of the percent of the reality, of the incarnation, the reality of the God-Man, of the gift of Jesus in a human body for us. And therefore, we have eternity to study it. As it says at the end of our text in Isaiah 9:7, "Of the increase of his kingdom, there will be no end." So for all eternity, his people will increasingly have a sense of his glory and his majesty for all eternity. This is news that never gets old. And I understand that our lives in this world can make us jaded, they can make us be bored with things that should be exciting. It's just what sin does to us. We get tired of things that should still bring us joy and beauty. I get it. That's all part of this struggle we have with sin. But in our resurrection minds and bodies, we'll be free from that forever. And we're going to spend forever celebrating the truth of this good news.

"We have not the tiniest fraction of a millionth of the percent of the reality, of the incarnation, the reality of the God-Man, of the gift of Jesus in a human body for us."

This is good news that we'll never get old, there's always more to tell. And the great significance of the word that the angel brought is the word Savior, "The Savior who is born to you." therefore, a personal Savior. Out of our darkness, stepping into our darkness and shredding that darkness with glorious light, a Savior born for us. You yourself, individually as a human being, as a sinner, you stand in need of this Savior. Because of your sins and I say because of my sins, we stand rightly under the terrifying wrath and judgment of God. There would be no escape for us, for Almighty God sees everywhere we go and He can reach us at any time. Christ alone is the refuge. And he was given by God to be precisely that, a refuge from the wrath and judgment of God, a refuge, a shelter, a savior who takes away the death penalty we have earned for our darkness, for our sin.

So the angel said plainly, "This Savior is born to you” for each of us individually and personally. And yet the angel makes it plain that this good news is for all people, people all over the world, even to the ends of the earth and to the ends of time. This baby who was being born that night is called Christ the Lord. Christ means anointed one, the one promised as the fulfillment of Davidic Covenant. Promised to the Jewish people through prophecies, like Isaiah's prophecy. This is the Messiah, the Christ, and he is Lord. That's the mystery. He is God in the flesh. Now, the shepherds could not have fully understood these words. Indeed, no creature will ever fully understand these words while we live in this world. Even though we study it for all eternity, we'll never finally reach an end.

So this is the astonishing message given by this single angel robed in the glory of the Lord. But God had yet more glory to pour out on these simple shepherds. And in comes that word "suddenly" that I mentioned earlier before. But here's where it comes. "Suddenly, a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel praising God and saying, 'Glory to God in the highest and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.'" Now, this is one of those amazing times I've spoken of recently when I was preaching through Job about Leviathan and how there's, it seems somewhat a wall or a barrier or a membrane between the physical five senses world that we're used to and the spiritual realm that surrounds us. And occasionally, that realm is rent. We're going to see this, God willing, in a few weeks when we begin the gospel of Mark at Jesus's baptism. Heaven is torn open. And in this case, heaven is opened, "and a great company," it says, "of the heavenly host." Now, we don't know how many. What is a great company? Lots of them. Now, both Daniel and the book of Revelation speak of myriad of myriads or 10,000 times 10,000. Some Christians do the math. I won't say who that is, but that's a hundred million angels. How many of them showed up that night? I don't know. But to some degree, just the heavens are open and they could see this heavenly host appearing. Now, the word host really is a military term. This is an army, you can imagine like the Roman legions in array and battle array. But they're not there to do warfare, they're there to worship. They're there to celebrate “glory to the newborn King.”

Now, I don't know that they sang. I know that Charles Wesley thinks they sang. Maybe they did. I hope they did. I don't know. All it says is they were praising God and saying, all right? But you're like, "No, no, no, they're singing." So go ahead, cross out saying and just write singing in there if you want. Maybe they were singing, but I do know what they were praising God about. "Glory to God in the highest and on earth, peace to those on whom his favor rests." First, glory to God is the centerpiece of all worship. Do not misunderstand. You're not giving anything to God he doesn't already possess. It's this way, “God is glorious. Oh, I see it or an aspect of it and I'm giving him the praise he deserves for that glory." That's what glory to God means. And then it's glory to God in the highest or in the highest degree. This is the most glorious thing that God can do. The greatest display of his attributes and his perfections is in his Son. For Hebrews 1:3 says, "He is the radiance of God's glory and the exact representation of his being." That's what we're seeing. That's what we're celebrating, "Glory to God in the highest degree and on earth, peace to those on whom his favor rests” peace on earth.

Now, the backdrop of that is this darkness is not a passive, quiet kind of darkness. This is the darkness of open rebellion against God the king. We, apart from Christ, are at war with him. He is our enemy and we are his. Colossians 1:21-22 says this, "Once you were alienated from God and were enemies in your minds because of your evil behavior. But now, he has reconciled you by Christ's physical body through death,” through his death on the cross, “to present you wholly in his sight without blemish and free from accusation.” And so Christ came to end the warfare between God's people and God himself and to bring a situation in which God's will be done on earth as it is in heaven, all of this, because of the coming of Christ. So the angelic host is celebrating, the army of heaven could easily have just poured down on earth like molten lava and just destroyed all the sinners. But that was not God's purpose. And they knew that it was God's purpose to save people so that they would worship him.

Now concerning the second phrase, the most famous translation in English will always be the KJV. "Peace on earth, goodwill toward men." Now most of the modern translations zero in a little more specifically on the word favor or goodwill that the gift is for those on whom God has set his grace, those on whom he has set his grace. Not everyone is going to experience this peace on earth, goodwill; they're not. But God's people will, the elects will. As Romans 5:1 says, "Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ." 

III. The Eternal Light: “To Us a Child is Born”

So the angels were dispatched by God to celebrate the moment of his birth. And so this is the eternal light. Go back to Isaiah 9 and look at the nature of the kingdom he comes to bring and the good news. Isaiah 9:6, "For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace." This is one of the great verses in the Bible and just the wonder of “To us, a child is born, a son is given” this little baby being born and then the mystery of the incarnation and these titles, a blending of the supernatural and natural in them. Wonderful Counselor, it's really more like miracle counselor. Wonder-working counselor. So there's a normal counseling aspect, but then there's the supernatural wonder working aspect, Wonderful Counselor. And then Mighty God, the word "mighty" is used frequently of individuals, of mighty warriors. Gideon was called mighty. So just individual people are called mighty from time to time. But look at the next word, God, Mighty God. "For to us a child is born and he'll be called Mighty God." That's the incarnation. And then Everlasting Father, again, that blending father is a very normal word, family word. But then Father of Eternity, an Eternal Father. And then Prince of Peace, which he came to give. And this is the nature of Christ who he is and then the amazing freedom of his rule. The government will be on his shoulders.

I'm weary of sinful, wicked human government. Don't be afraid, I'm not going into details. I'm saying whatever government you're thinking about, whatever that might be, this is better. Amen? This is better: Jesus ruling for all eternity, the government being on his shoulders. And verse 7, “Of the increase of his government,” I already talked about that, "and peace there will be no end. He will reign on David's throne and over his kingdom establishing and upholding it with justice and righteousness from that time on and forever, an eternal throne of justice and righteousness, the zeal of the Lord Almighty will accomplish this.”

So listen, the angels’ light only shown temporarily, and then he was gone. The angels went back up to heaven. But then the real light started shining. I really think it's captured by this phrase, "The zeal of the Lord Almighty will accomplish this." We cannot measure the zeal, the fiery zeal of God the Father, to make Jesus' kingdom established and reign forever. "Sit at my right hand," he says, "I'm going to put all of your enemies under your feet and you will reign forever and ever. Ask of me, and I'll make the nation's your inheritance." The zeal of the Lord Almighty burning for Jesus will accomplish this. 

IV. Walking in the Glorious Light of Christ’s Kingdom

So this light has dawned. The question is, are you going to come toward it or run from it in terror? As Jesus said in John 3, this is the verdict, "Light has come into the world, but men love darkness rather than the light for their deeds are evil. Everyone who does evil hates the light and will not come into light for fear that his deeds will be exposed. But whoever lives by the truth comes into the light so that it may be seen plainly that what he has done has been done through God." And again, John 8:12, Jesus said, "I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life."

So a couple of exhortations and we’ll be done. First, don't grieve over the present darkness that you see as though it's some new thing. It's been around a long time. It is grievous in and of itself, but don't think we're in some whole new phase of darkness on planet earth. There has been darkness since the fall, and God is able to, in a beautiful way, shine in the midst of this darkness. Secondly, trust in Christ. Be drawn into him, into his beautiful light. Understand that only Christ's glorious death on the cross can defeat the true darkness of sin and death and hell. So cast yourself wholly in the abandon of faith into Jesus. Just dive into the ocean of light and then walk in the light as he is in the light. Put all the darkness of sin out of your life. Even if you've been a Christian for many years, there is a darkness in each of us. By the light of God's word, his word a lamp to our feet and a light to our path, through the atoning work of Christ, all of the darkness in our lives can be driven back, driven out, ultimately driven out entirely.

Finally, when you celebrate Christmas about a week from now, when you gather together as a family, I would commend that you read Isaiah 9:1-7. Just read and celebrate. Focus your minds not on all of the temporary blessings, and they're good. It's good to enjoy those temporary blessings, but focus your mind on the light that shines in the darkness. Close with me in prayer.

Lord, thank you for the incredible truth of the word of God. The depths are amazing, the levels of truth are beyond us, and we thank you for the simple truth that even a child can understand, that Jesus is the Son of God, he died for us that we might live forever. Lord, thank you for that. And thank you for all of the gifts and the blessings that you give us along the way that are tokens of your kindness in Christ and of a future world of light and celebration and glory. In Jesus’ name, amen. 

Other Sermons in This Series

God With Us

December 17, 2006

God With Us

Matthew 1:18-25

Andy Davis