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The Epiphany
January 6, 2013
The Old Testament: Isaiah 60: 1-6
Sermon: "Your Best Year Yet!"

The Reverend Dr. Richard (Rick) Miles

Watch the complete video of this service on our YouTube Channel

The Old Testament:

Arise, shine; for your light has come,
and the glory of the LORD has risen upon you.
For darkness shall cover the earth,
and thick darkness the peoples;
but the LORD will arise upon you,
and his glory will appear over you.
Nations shall come to your light,
and kings to the brightness of your dawn.
Lift up your eyes and look around;
they all gather together, they come to you;
your sons shall come from far away,
and your daughters shall be carried on their nurses' arms.
Then you shall see and be radiant;
your heart shall thrill and rejoice,
because the abundance of the sea shall be brought to you,
the wealth of the nations shall come to you.
A multitude of camels shall cover you,
the young camels of Midian and Ephah;
all those from Sheba shall come.
They shall bring gold and frankincense,
and shall proclaim the praise of the LORD.

Isaiah 60: 1-6

Your Best Year Yet!

Isaiah 60: 1-6

This new year can be your best year yet! I realize that that could sound a bit flippant. You might be facing mountains; mountains you are not certain you can climb. Notice, though, I am not saying that this will be the easiest year you have ever faced. Only that it can be the best year. Success cannot always be measured in either career accomplishment or financial accumulation. If this year brings you closer to God and closer to your friends; if it helps you value more highly the things that really matter and causes you to appreciate more deeply the gift of simply being alive, it will be a great year no matter what your circumstances.

This morningís passage from the Prophet Isaiah certainly encourages us to believe that something wonderful lies ahead. With the very first words in this passage Isaiah counsels his people and us, ďArise, shine; for you light has come, and the glory of the Lord has risen upon you.Ē Many who heard Isaiahís summons surely responded, ďWhat nonsense. How can I let my light shine?Ē Iíve had a rough year.Ē Or, Iím old and none too able anymore.Ē Or, ďIím young and Iíve got things to do.Ē ďBesides, we donít see any evidence of the deliverance of God.Ē 

Perhaps you have similar thoughts. You doubt that this can be a great year for you. Maybe youíre too wise for fantasies; too cynical for fairy tales of better days ahead. Like many in Isaiahís audience, you see no evidence of the deliverance of God. Let me offer three items in evidence, if I might, three ways in which you and I can have our best year yet. 

The first way toward that best year yet is this: to know who and whose we are. That seems simple enough, yet what a profound difference it makes for us when we know it. One of Isaiahís primary tasks was to remind the people of God just who and whose they were. They were no ordinary run-of-the-mill ragtag outfit. They were Godís own anointed. They were the chosen. 

We could stand to be reminded, often, of who we are too. We are Godís people. We are those for whom Christ died. We belong to the best family in town; Godís family. Family membership is a real advantage in this world. When the late Senator Teddy Kennedy first ran for the Senate, his brother Jack was President, and his other brother Bobby was Attorney General. According to one source, Teddy told his brother the President that he thought he would change his name. It was too well known politically, he concluded, and he did not wish to hang on to the coat tails of his brothers.

President Kennedy asked, ďWhat name are you going to ask for?Ē 
ďWell,Ē said Teddy, ďI think Iíll keep my first name. After all, Iím used to responding to that.Ē ďBut for the last name I think Iíd like Roosevelt.Ē Well, Teddy Roosevelt would be a pretty nice name. 

There would be certain advantages to being a Kennedy or a Roosevelt, or a Hilton or a Gates. Membership in a prominent family is helpful in this world. I want to suggest, however, that there is an even greater advantage to those who know themselves to be a part of the family of God. 
An unknown poet said it well. He writes:

I may be young I may be old,
But I am somebody, for I am Godís child.
I may be educated; I may be unlettered,
But I am somebody, for I am Godís child. 
I may be black; I may be white, 
But I am somebody, for I am Godís child. 
I may be rich; I may be poor. 
But I am somebody, for I am Godís child. 
I may be fat; I may be thin. 
But I am somebody, for I am Godís child. 
I may be married; I may be divorced,
But I am somebody, for I am Godís child. 
I may be successful; I may be a failure.
But I am somebody, for I am Godís child.
I may be a sinner; I may be a saint. 
But I am somebody, for Jesus is my savior. 
I am Godís child.

There is a great secret of life: to remember that you are somebody because you are Godís child. Your parentage is far more exalted than any mere well connected name. You have God for your parent. You have a certain innate worth and dignity because of your heritage. Remember who and whose you are in this new year. Thatís the first way to your best year yet. 

Hereís the second way: know where you are going. Isaiah wanted his people to know where they were going. He painted a picture of a peaceful, happy time; a time when the peoples of the world would look to Godís people for guidance and inspiration. Isaiah understood the power of a vision. If he could help his people see what they could be, if he could get them to believe this vision and make a move towards its realization, God would bless his people in a wondrous way. Here again is a great secret of life: People who arrive are those who know where they are going. 

Some people spend their lives going first down one road and then another. They wander nowhere in particular and then wonder how they got there. May I suggest that as you start this new year, you write down a description of the things you really would like to accomplish? Give yourself a road map. What are some goals you really would like to attain: Spend more time with your family perhaps; Project yourself more positively on the job; Devote more time to the service of God? Paint a picture in your own mind of where you would like to be this time next year. Now, write down your goals and refer to them from time to time. You will travel more surely in this new year if you know where you are going. 

Hereís a way to set your feet upon the right road this year. Sometime within this week or next, go into a quiet place and leave the world behind. Set aside a substantial block at one sitting for reflection and prayer. During this time, begin with prayer; ask God for real guidance to know what is best for your life and how to accomplish it. Then read these passages of Scripture: Proverbs 3:5-8; Matthew 6:25-33, with the emphasis on verse 33; Romans 12, the whole chapter; and Philippians 4:4-13. Read them all more than once; donít presume that you got the whole point the first time through. Then pray again asking for the Holy Spirit to illuminate your thoughts; that Godís thoughts would become your own. Just sit quietly and ponder what youíve read. 

Take time to think. Jot down or draw on paper or use a recorder for the ideas and pictures that come to you. Record them as they come; you can prioritize them later. When you come to the point that you feel wrung out, spent of any further ability to think or imagine; stop. Give thanks to God for whatís come forth, leave your quiet place and rejoin the world. 

Now I know that you have trouble finding even one spare hour in a week, much less a real block of time, nevertheless, if you will carve it out, give up something on the calendar if necessary, surrender an appointment if possible, all the rest of your hours throughout the year ahead will amount to so much more than just time spent. You will know where youíve invested them. Your feet will be upon the best path, and you will know where you are going. Thatís the second way to your best year yet. 

Finally, hereís the third way to your best year yet: know who goes with you. Isaiah understood that any glory that came to his people was not their own doing. Their hope was in God and God alone. So it is with us. 

Among some Native American tribes an interesting rite takes place in every boyís life; a rite designed to help the boy learn the courage of manhood. When he is deemed ready, he is taken out into the forest to spend the night alone. Left with nothing but a knife for protection, he is required to remain silent as he awaits whatever horrors the night might bring. The next morning, however, he is greeted with a delightful surprise. He finds that his father has been standing near and watching all through the night, armed and ready lest something hurtful should happen to his son. 

Many of you have discovered something like that in the midst of your own long, difficult night. Someone was watching over you all through the night. God was with you. 

How can this be any other than a great year? Know who and whose you are. Know where you are going. Know that God is going with you. It will be your best year yet!

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