During a Sunday evening service a thunderstorm disrupted the electrical power of an entire community. People sat in silence in the church with only the candles on the altar giving them light in the darkness. The pastor made his way over to where a woman from the altar guild sat and spoke to her. She left her pew and made her way to the sacristy. After a few moments of hearing her fumbling about in the sacristy, she finally emerged with a box filled with the small candles which were used for Christmas Eve Candlelight service.
Bringing them back into the nave of the church, the pastor called for the ushers to come forward and to distribute the candles to the congregation still seated in the darkness. The pastor then took a small candle and went to the altar, bowed, and lit the candle in his hand. He then passed the flame of his candle to the woman and his ushers, who in turn went and lit the candles of the worshipers.
Soon the room was filled with light from the burning candles held by each of the worshipers. The light in the church shone through the windows, into the darkened street outside. The cars and trucks outside were stalled because streetlights and traffic signals were not working. Before long, people began to leave their vehicles and make their way into the church. They found a place in the pews with the other worshipers. They too received a small candle which was lit by a worshiper sitting nearby. Now even more light illuminated the church as more people joined those inside. They were no longer sitting in darkness but in the light of many lit candles.
Long before Jesus began His ministry in the land of Zebulun and Naphtali, long-lost tribes of Israel to the Assyrian hegemony to the north, Isaiah had written of that vanquished land. “There will be no more gloom for those who were in distress,” he wrote (Isaiah 9:1). The Lord would visit His people and cause light to overcome the darkness. “The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of deep darkness a light has dawned” (Isaiah 9:2).
After John the Baptizer had been arrested, Jesus moved from Nazareth to Galilee, to Capernaum in the north, “by the lake in the area of Zebulun and Naphtali – to fulfill what was said through the prophet Isaiah” (Matthew 4:13-14), which then records the prophecy from Isaiah. Jesus would continue preaching and teaching, affirming John’s call to repentance and faith, saying, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near” (Matthew 4:17). God’s righteous rule and reign was breaking into the world.
The glory of God, hidden in the person of God’s Son, now emerged in the devastated land of Israel, where the people were living in the spiritual darkness of sin’s captivity. Jesus now began to call His first disciples, brothers who were fishermen, to “Come, follow Me, and I will send you out to fish for people” (Matthew 4:19). Jesus, the light of the world, would go throughout Galilee, and bring the light of God’s kingdom of grace and mercy to those living in darkness. As Isaiah had foretold, “the people living in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of the shadow of death a light has dawned” (Isaiah 9:2; Matthew 4:16).
Matthew’s narrative reports, “Jesus went throughout Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, proclaiming the good news of the kingdom, and healing every disease and sickness among the people” (Matthew 4:23). The Gospel light of Christ’s saving ministry overcomes sin’s wages. That Gospel light is our joy today. We share that light, that loving grace and forgiveness in Christ, dispelling darkness with His light.