A Light Has Dawned

This is a manuscript, and not a transcript of this message. The actual presentation of the message differed from the manuscript through the leading of the Holy Spirit. Therefore, it is possible, and even likely that there is material in this manuscript that was not included in the live presentation and that there was additional material in the live presentation that is not included in this manuscript.
Have you ever been in a place that is completely dark? When I was working as a CPA one of my clients was a uranium mining company. One day we were touring one of there mines, which was about 1500 feet underground. In much of the mine, the only light was the headlights on our helmets and at one point in the tour we stopped and everyone turned off their lights. That is the only time in my life it was so dark that I literally could not see my hand in front my face. And that was an uncomfortable and scary feeling.
I think most of us naturally have a fear of the dark, which is why night lights are a fixture in children’s bedrooms.
So I suppose it’s not surprising that one of the recurring themes we find in the Bible is the contrast between dark and light. We see that in only the second verse of the Bible:
Genesis 1:2 ESV
2 The earth was without form and void, and darkness was over the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters.
And then in the very next verse, we find the first recorded words of God in the Bible:
Genesis 1:3 ESV
3 And God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light.
As we’re going to see this morning, this idea of darkness and light is central to birth of Jesus that we celebrate at Christmas.
One of the first indications that Christmas is approaching is the appearance of lights. If you shop at Costco, that could be while it’s still summer and elsewhere that now seems to occur earlier and earlier. Mary and I have decided that we’re not going to succumb to that trend so for us this weekend after Thanksgiving has traditionally been the time we put up Christmas lights and decorations.
In a sense, Christmas lights may very well be the best symbol we have that points us to the true meaning of Christmas, even though most of the world is blind to that. As we’re going to see this morning, the essence of Christmas is that God sent His light into a world that is characterized by darkness.
In the Bible, darkness is a picture of evil and ignorance, and I think all of us would agree that we have plenty of both in our world today. However, I fear that many of us are either blind to the darkness in our own lives or we’re trying to get rid of that darkness in a completely ineffective way.
Fortunately for all of us, Christmas is God’s solution to the darkness in both our personal lives and in the world.
This morning we begin our Christmas sermon series, which we are titling Hidden Christmas. That title comes from a book with the same title written by Pastor Timothy Keller. Ryan and I are both indebted to Dr. Keller for many of the themes and ideas behind the messages we’ll be sharing over the next four weeks.
Over 700 years before the birth of Jesus, the prophet Isaiah had predicted that God was going to send His light into a world characterized by great darkness. That prophecy was relevant to Isaiah’s contemporaries as it related to the coming Assyrian invasion of Judah. But, as Matthew points out, it was also looking forward to the ministry of Jesus.
Before we get to the passage that Matthew quotes, we’re going to go back to the last part of Isaiah 8, where Isaiah describes the darkness of the situation that the Israelites faced. Before I read that passage, let me give you a little background:
In Isaiah 7, we see that Judah and its king, Ahaz, were terrified by an approaching invasion by an alliance of Israel and Syria. Although God promised he would protect Judah, Ahaz made an alliance with the Assyrians. And that alliance did lead to the defeat of the Israel-Syria alliance.
But because of their lack of trust in God, God warns that the Assyrians are going to turn on Judah and bring God’s judgment on them. That will lead to a time of darkness that is described at the end of Isaiah 8:
Isaiah 8:19–22 ESV
19 And when they say to you, “Inquire of the mediums and the necromancers who chirp and mutter,” should not a people inquire of their God? Should they inquire of the dead on behalf of the living? 20 To the teaching and to the testimony! If they will not speak according to this word, it is because they have no dawn. 21 They will pass through the land, greatly distressed and hungry. And when they are hungry, they will be enraged and will speak contemptuously against their king and their God, and turn their faces upward. 22 And they will look to the earth, but behold, distress and darkness, the gloom of anguish. And they will be thrust into thick darkness.
In these verses, we not only learn about the darkness that came upon Judah, but we also see how it is possible for our lives to become dark.

3 signs of darkness in my life:


The people of Judah still had access to the temple at this time. But instead of choosing to meet God there, they chose to go to mediums and necromancers. They would rather talk to the dead instead of the living God.
Most people in our culture today essentially choose to do the same thing. They may not engage with mediums and necromancers, but they find all kinds of other things to take the place of God. I think that is because they know that if they approach God then they have to do things His way. And most people don’t want to give up control of their lives like that.
And there might even be some of you here today that would have to honestly admit that you’re not really ready to give up control of your life completely to God either. Maybe you’ve even genuinely put your faith in Jesus but you’re still hanging on to some areas in your life so that you can live the way you want rather than the way God desires for you to live. If that is the case, then you are living in darkness and need the light of Jesus.


In verse 21, the people are described as being “greatly distressed and hungry”. In our culture, Christmas has largely become all about hungering for the next best thing - a new car, the latest iPhone or Apple Watch, the newest game console, or the latest styles. The problem with all those things is that they only satisfy our inner hunger for a while, but then the emptiness comes back.
Perhaps that describes your life. You are always searching for something or someone to satisfy you and give you fulfillment, only to find that even when you obtain what you want, you’re still empty. In that case, you need to let Jesus shine His light into the darkness of your life.


In verse 21, we also see that the people are “enraged” and that they speak against God. When things don’t go the way they want, they get made at God and blame Him.
All of us have done this at one time or another. Something doesn’t go our way and we get angry at God and blame Him. Even a lot of the Psalms begin like that. But the problem comes when we hang on to that anger and we end up wounding ourselves and wounding others. If that is the case for you, then you need Jesus to shine His light into the darkness of your life.
Unfortunately, most of us tend to deal with the darkness in our lives just like the people in Isaiah’s day. Look what it says in verse 22: they will look to the earth. In other words, they were looking toward human resources to try and overcome the darkness. And we’re still doing the same thing today. If you doubt that, just go down to Barnes and Noble and see how large their “self-help” section is. We think we can fix the darkness by turning to intellect and innovation. But history proves that only leads to more darkness. That is what happens every time I think I can “fix” my need for control, my emptiness and my anger.
But in the midst of the darkness there is light and hope. We see that clearly in Isaiah 9. Please follow along as I read the first 7 verses of that chapter:
Isaiah 9:1–7 ESV
1 But there will be no gloom for her who was in anguish. In the former time he brought into contempt the land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali, but in the latter time he has made glorious the way of the sea, the land beyond the Jordan, Galilee of the nations. 2 The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who dwelt in a land of deep darkness, on them has light shone. 3 You have multiplied the nation; you have increased its joy; they rejoice before you as with joy at the harvest, as they are glad when they divide the spoil. 4 For the yoke of his burden, and the staff for his shoulder, the rod of his oppressor, you have broken as on the day of Midian. 5 For every boot of the tramping warrior in battle tumult and every garment rolled in blood will be burned as fuel for the fire. 6 For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder, and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. 7 Of the increase of his government and of peace there will be no end, on the throne of David and over his kingdom, to establish it and to uphold it with justice and with righteousness from this time forth and forevermore. The zeal of the Lord of hosts will do this.
Here in this passage, we find the real meaning of Christmas, and our main idea for today:

When we can’t find the light on our own, God sends His light

Isaiah looks ahead to a time when the people who are living in darkness will see a great light. And when that light shines into their darkness, they will rejoice and have great joy. But that light is going to come from a completely unexpected source - a child! But not just any child.
On one hand that child will be 100% human - He is going to be born. On the other hand that child is going to be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, and Prince of Peace. In Hebrew thought a name doesn’t just identify a person. It describes our expresses the character and nature of a person. And the names that are given to this baby - the names that we sang about earlier this morning - belong to God alone.
Although the people of Isaiah’s day couldn’t understand the significance of a child with those names, that first Christmas is the story of light entering into our dark world in the form of a baby who is 100% man and 100% God at the same time. Today, we can clearly see that this could only be referring to Jesus.
That’s not the only information in this passage that confirms that Isaiah is looking ahead to Jesus. Notice in verse 1 that Isaiah refers to the land of Zebulun and Naphtali and to the land beyond the Jordan, Galilee of the nations.
The public ministry of Jesus didn’t begin where we might have expected - in the capital city of the Roman Empire or in the seat of the Jewish religion - Jerusalem. Instead it began in the most unlikely of places - Galilee, which “just happens” to be in the land of Zebulun and Naphtali. In his gospel account, Matthew quotes from Isaiah 9 to make that connection clear:
Matthew 4:13–16 ESV
13 And leaving Nazareth he went and lived in Capernaum by the sea, in the territory of Zebulun and Naphtali, 14 so that what was spoken by the prophet Isaiah might be fulfilled: 15 “The land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali, the way of the sea, beyond the Jordan, Galilee of the Gentiles— 16 the people dwelling in darkness have seen a great light, and for those dwelling in the region and shadow of death, on them a light has dawned.”
Both Isaiah and Matthew remind us that we can’t find the light on our own. There is nothing we can do to “fix” or overcome the darkness in this world or in our individual lives. Instead the light - Jesus - is given to us as an undeserved gift. We see this idea expressed in several different ways in our passage:
First we see that a light has dawned, or has shone upon us. That means that it is a light that comes from outside of ourselves. In fact, it is a light that comes from outside this world.
Second, we see that “a son is given”. He is a gift, not something that we earn, deserve or create on our own.
Finally, in verse 7, we read that “the zeal of the Lord of host will do this”. This is 100% God’s doing. There is nothing I can do or need to do in my life to produce this light.
So that all that remains for me to do is to accept that gift and let Jesus shine His light into my life.
So let’s close by talking about...


I’m going to keep this really simple this morning and just leave us with two principles that we can apply in our lives that will allow Jesus to shine His light into our lives.

Swallow my pride

Some gifts are hard to receive because by accepting them we are admitting our flaws and weaknesses. Suppose on Christmas morning this year, you open your presents and one of your friends or family members gives you a membership to Jenny Craig and another one gives you a book on overcoming selfishness. By accepting those gifts you’re essentially admitting that you are fat and selfish.
On a much deeper level nothing makes us swallow our pride more than receiving the light of Jesus by putting our faith in Him alone. When we do that we are acknowledging that our lives are full of darkness, that we are sinners who are so lost, so unable to save ourselves that only Jesus can do that for us. The only way we can overcome the darkness in our lives is to acknowledge that the gift of light is 100% undeserved grace.

Put Jesus in charge

At Christmas, there are a lot of people who don’t mind at all celebrating the birth of a baby in Bethlehem over 2,000 years ago. Many of those same people might even admit that Jesus was a good person or a wise teacher. They might even say that they like Him. But that’s not enough if we want Jesus to shine His light into our lives.
I love what Keller wrote in his book:
First of all, if Jesus Christ is really Mighty God and Everlasting Father, you can’t just like him. In the Bible the people who actually saw and heard Jesus never reacted indifferently or even mildly. Once they realized what he was claiming about himself, either they were scared of him or furious with him or they knelt down before him and worshipped him. But nobody simply liked him. Nobody said, “He is so inspiring. He makes me want to live a better life.”
As we saw earlier, one of the manifestations of darkness in our lives is a desire for control. But if we want Jesus to shine His light into our lives, we must turn over control of every area of our life to Him and quit looking to human resources as a way to overcome that darkness. That’s what it means to make Jesus the Lord of our life.
Unfortunately, from the moment Jesus manifest His light into this world, most people have been unwilling to do that. John wrote these insightful words at the beginning of his gospel account:
John 1:9–10 ESV
9 The true light, which gives light to everyone, was coming into the world. 10 He was in the world, and the world was made through him, yet the world did not know him.
That is without a doubt one of the most heartbreaking passages in the entire Bible and my prayer for you this morning is that you won’t choose to reject the light of Jesus like that.
We’ve learned this morning that...

When we can’t find the light on our own, God sends His light

My question to you this morning is this:
What will you do with Jesus, the light of the world?
That morning when I stood in that uranium mine in complete darkness, I was paralyzed, unable to move because of the fear of what I might run into. I had a decision to make. I could either fumble around in the darkness or I could turn my headlamp back on. Those were my only two options. Now obviously for me and the others with me that day, the decision was pretty easy. After a few moments in the dark, we all turned our lights back on.
For all of us this morning, the same is true. We have only 2 choices. But the decision we make will obviously have much more far reaching consequences for our lives.
We can either remain in the darkness, hanging on to our desire for control and wallowing in our emptiness and anger or we can swallow our pride and put Jesus in control and let Him shine His light into our darkness.
Which one will you choose?
There is no doubt that we live in a dark world. But there is hope. If we’ll let Him, Jesus will overcome that darkness. I’ll close this morning with the words of Jesus:
John 8:12 ESV
12 Again Jesus spoke to them, saying, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”
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