“Thither Will I Go”
Isaiah 60:1-6; Luke 2:1-5
I want to start tonight by sharing a poem. It’s called, “And the Word was Made Flesh” by Laurence Housman.
“Light looked down and beheld Darkness.
‘Thither will I go’, said Light.
Peace looked down and beheld War.
‘Thither will I go’, said Peace.
Love looked down and beheld Hatred.
‘Thither will I go’, said Love.
So came Light and shone.
So came Peace and gave rest.
So came Love and brought Life.”
Tonight, a journey begins. Tonight we gather here in this church to officially begin our own season of waiting and anticipation. Our own season that leads us to Christmas, the birth of the Christ child, Emmanuel, “God with us”.
We call this season Advent. Advent meaning “coming into place” or “arrival”. It is a time of some reflection. A time to remember the many promises from God, the one’s he has made to His people.
Joseph and Mary were recipients of promises, and tonight we read of the start of their long journey to Bethlehem. The journey which will lead to the place where Mary will give birth to this special child.
We too have been invited to be part of this journey. We’ve been invited to find a place in our hearts for a very special child. A child who will fill our hearts with joy, who will give our lives hope, who will show us the abundant love of God, and will bring us peace.
The prophet Isaiah makes many predictions around this child, pointing to the hope and joy we can expect when God sends the Light of the world among us.
In Isaiah 60, we hear our light has come. This is such appropriate imagery for this time of year. A time when the nights are so long, and as Christmas approaches, the days just get shorter and shorter, the darkness covers earth longer and longer (at least our part of the earth). It’s a time of year when we begin to crave light. We tire of the darkness and cold, we want to receive more light and warmth, two things that help perk us up naturally.
God promises this light. The prophet says,
“Arise, shine, for your light has come,
and the glory of the LORD has risen upon you.
For behold, darkness shall cover the earth,
and thick darkness the peoples;
but the LORD will arise upon you,
and his glory will be seen upon you.
And nations shall come to your light,
and kings to the brightness of your rising.”
God promises to reveal himself to Isaiah’s audience, all of us. All who read and hear these words, the glory of the LORD will arise upon us. We will be carriers of this promised light, the light we are reminded of in the birth of this child. The child of God.
When we carry this light within us, lives will be changed. Our lives. And as the prophet reveals, others will be drawn to the light we carry within ourselves.
Jesus Christ changes lives. I don’t think we have too many arguments about that here. The light of the world is coming. Well, actually it’s the celebration of his coming we are preparing for. Jesus has come, and we spend the next 5 weeks preparing to receive him again.
Towards the end of our Isaiah reading, we hear the prediction of the visit from the Magi. The wise men from the east who will come and kneel down before the Prince of Peace, and lay gifts before him.
The Advent stories are stories of journey, they are stories of prophesies and preparation. All of this takes a certain amount of effort. It takes energy to go on a journey, it takes preparation, believe me, I know when I load the car when we take the kids on vacation!
But the preparation we undergo this time does not require a lot of effort. This journey requires discipline, time away from all that does require lots of effort. To find those quiet moments where we can reflect, pray, read the Holy Book, and become closer to God.
As we read through the Old Testament predictions there’s one thing we need to remember… the Light has already come. Love has already come. Peace has already come. Jesus has already come, and we are already invited to receive these things. And once we have received, we are invited to share them.
Look at what we are doing here tonight. We are here to be surrounded by light. To celebrate and remember lives of loved ones as we come into a season where loved ones are often missed. We are doing this by turning on lights, shining in the darkness, and we are drawn together because of it.
Others are drawn to this night for the special moment we all share. This time of remembrance and the beginning of the Christmas season together.
A Christian life is one of a journey ever unfolding. For Mary and Joseph, the journey began with promises from the angels who visited them. A journey which led them to the town of Bethlehem where Mary had birth in a most difficult and unholy place. Certainly no place for the birth of the Prince of Peace, that’s for sure. Yet, in this place, surrounded by the smells of a stable and animals, in the cold, dark of night, God made this place Holy. God brought his light into the darkness of this scene.
And here we are today. The news full of darkness and sin. Worries about our financial institutions, countries going bankrupt, the divide between rich and poor, protests in our streets, famines, war, disease, pain, death.
It’s so dark.
The poem I read. God’s promise to send light into the darkness. It happened. Light came… and lives were saved, hearts were healed, hungry were fed, darkness thrown aside.
And it never left.
The light of the world continues to be on this earth. Jesus Christ lives on in each and every one of us here tonight, and in churches all over the world.
The prophet Isaiah wrote,
“Lift up your eyes all around, and see;
they all gather together, they come to you;
your sons shall come from afar,
and your daughters shall be carried on the hip.
Then you shall see and be radiant;
your heart shall thrill and exult,
because the abundance of the sea shall be turned to you,
the wealth of the nations shall come to you.”
The light of the world lives within us now. Jesus Christ has moved into our hearts and given us the light that can chase away the darkness. We are the people of God who have received the true gift which has been offered.
We received the light, love and peace, and our hearts exult.
The journey began a very long time ago. The journey as a people of God who are called to continue to share this gift with others. The gift we celebrate in his birth in a meagre stable. The gift that grew into a man and touched the hearts of thousands as he walked the countryside. The gift who offered us his Spirit when he took leave of this earth to live with the Father in heaven.
We have the Spirit of Jesus Christ within us. As we journey among the world in all its radiant splendour, telling us to shop til we drop, let us not be afraid to say, “No”.
Let us not be afraid to share in the one true Light, one we can’t plug in. One we cannot buy. One we are given. One that lives within us. One we sometimes try to hide.
“Thither I will go!”
Where will we go this Advent season? What journey are we on? Where will our hearts be?
We are invited to welcome the Lord Jesus Christ, Emmanuel, God with us into the world once again.
We have already received the gift.
Who will we give it to this year? Who will we share it with?
Who needs some light to chase away the darkness?
Whither will we go?