Isaiah 60:1–3 (NKJV)
1 Arise, shine; For your light has come! And the glory of the Lord is risen upon you. 2 For behold, the darkness shall cover the earth, And deep darkness the people; But the Lord will arise over you, And His glory will be seen upon you. 3 The Gentiles shall come to your light, And kings to the brightness of your rising.
Communication is a good thing. As creatures made in the image of God, spoken into existence by the Word of God, one of our most god-like capabilities is the ability to communicate – to articulate with words our thoughts, feelings, desires, longings, ideas, fears, etc. Words make us human.
Ideally when we communicate both parties get the same message. But sometimes – either because we forget to speak with one another or because the person speaking communicates something other than that which the other hears – our messages just don’t get across. And this is what happened last week with our service of worship.
You see Epiphany in the church calendar, the day that celebrates the revelation of Christ to the Magi and, many years later, His baptism and His first miracle at the wedding in Cana, is celebrated on a fixed day, January 6th. Churches in the west that don’t celebrate Epiphany itself but who celebrate Epiphany on a Sunday instead have to decide which Sunday on which to celebrate. And while Carrie and I were treating last Sunday as Epiphany, Jim and Cassandra assumed we would celebrate this Sunday. Miscommunication.
So what do we do when we have a miscommunication? First, of course, the one responsible for the miscommunication should take responsibility for it. So, mea culpa – I should have communicated better. Second, knowing that our God is sovereign over all and that He intended this miscommunication for our good, our next calling is to be thankful. One of the glorious things about miscommunications is that they frequently result in multiplied blessings: we got to sing additional Christmas hymns last week and we get to sing Epiphany hymns this week and what’s wrong with that? Praise the Lord! After all, the church calendar is just a tool, a means to enable us to focus our lives on the life of our Great King Jesus. The church calendar declares that his life is the pattern for our own – and Jesus was routinely misunderstood and yet continued to give thanks to God.
And it is the centrality and magnetism of Christ which we find celebrated in Isaiah’s vision today. What happens when the light of the world comes? When the glory of the Lord rises and shines upon His people? The Gentiles shall come to your light, and kings to the brightness of your rising. Men are drawn to that light, to the character of Christ, like moths to a flame.
Today throughout the world, millions of people will gather to worship Him and to pay Him tribute. Why? Did he march forth into battle with sword and shield, scimitar and daggar, battle axe and hammer? No; he did something far more fearsome. He faced the wrath of the thrice-holy God in order that he might pay the penalty for our sin. He went through the fiery furnace of judgment in order to bring us to safety and peace. He loved us and gave His life for us – upholding justice by causing justice and mercy to kiss in peace. He has conquered millions by His love.
And it is into this image that we are being transformed. So should we strive to communicate well? Yes for Jesus is the Word of God and faithfully communicated all that the Father had given him to say. But when we fail to communicate well, what should be our response? To acknowledge that we are yet fallen creatures in need of the grace of God and to give thanks that despite our miscommunications God has taught us to love one another and is enabling us, by His Spirit, to become more like Jesus.
So what miscommunications have dogged you this week? Have you and your spouse failed to understand one another? Have you and your children been like ships passing in the fog? Has your boss failed to hear your suggestions or your employee failed to implement what you thought you communicated so clearly? Whatever the miscommunication, God sends it as a reminder of our frailty, a reminder of our need for the sacrifice of Christ, and so let us kneel and seek His forgiveness for failing to respond to these miscommunications in a godly fashion.