"Arise, shine; for your light has come, and the glory of the Lord has risen upon you."(Isaiah 60:1)
The Message translates the same verse this way:
“Get out of bed, Jerusalem!
Wake up. Put your face in the sunlight.
God’s bright glory has risen for you."
On January 6th we celebrated the feast of the Epiphany, a day which reminds us that God sent his son, Jesus Christ, to bring light into a dark world, and also into the darkness of our own hearts and minds.
With the coming of that light, we are to get up, to shine, allowing God's light upon us to dispel the darkness in the world around us.
During class we began a discussion about darkness and sources of light. Terry shared his experience of working in an actual darkroom when serving as photographer in the US Navy. Being in the dark took getting used to, and was even scary at first, although after being in a darkroom for a few moments it was possible to see some traces of light. Most of the job had to be done in the dark or the film would be ruined, the images lost.
Most of us do not feel comfortable in the dark, especially to work. Today when there are so many sources of light through electricity it can be hard to make out the brilliance of the stars in our sky because light surrounds our towns and cities. We are accustomed to the light, often take it for granted.
Until, as Mary Ellen shared, we recently experienced Hurricane Sandy, which plunged so many areas here in the northeastern United States into darkness. Many people were forced to bring out candles to provide light in their dark homes.
One candle lit in a dark room creates an amazing amount of illumination. It truly does push back the darkness. What if we add two candles, or three, positioning them at different spots within the room? The light becomes greater, the darkness recedes further.
If we are holding a candle and keep it in front of our bodies, the light is blocked on one side; but if we hold it up high above our heads that same light can reach behind and around us. That picture reminds me of the Statue of Liberty and her invitation:
"Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses, yearning to breath free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore,
Send these, the homeless, tempest tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door."
Further into the reading from Isaiah we realize that if we hold the light of God up for others to see, people will be drawn to that light.
"Nations shall come to your light, and kings to the brightness of your dawn."
Maybe our Epiphany lies in believing in the light, and sharing it boldly. Ann spoke of the headlights on a car, and their illumination of the road ahead. We are all called to shine the light ahead for those who need to see.
The Wise Men followed the light of a star to the baby Jesus. In Matthew 2:1-12 they asked Herod, "Where is the child who has been born king of the Jews? For we have seen his star at its rising, and have come to pay him homage." They knelt in front of the baby Jesus and presented him with their gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh.
The birth of Christ even caused the rising of a star in the heavens, one that could be followed. The wise men were "overwhelmed with joy" when they saw Jesus. His light became theirs, and they gladly offered him gifts. They had already made a long journey to "see the true light," and when they left, after being warned by God in a dream, they took a different route.
The light of God often does that..... changes the direction of our lives.
Another word for Epiphany is manifestation. As the Apostle Paul shares from our epistle reading in Ephesians 3:1-12, "Although I am the very least of all the saints, this grace was given me to bring to the Gentiles the news of the boundless riches of Christ, and to see what is the plan of the mystery hidden for ages in God who created all things; so that through the church the wisdom of God in its rich variety might now be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly places."
God's light, manifest in each of us, forms a community of light. As we each raise our candles, allowing "the wisdom of God in its rich variety" to shine through us, we join in dispelling the darkness. Each person shines uniquely that light, based on their individual gifts. Together we become brighter. Together we heal. Together we bring peace.
From Living the Good News:
Just the worst time of the year
For a journey, and such a long journey:
The ways deep and the weather sharp,
The very dead of winter.'
And the camels galled, sorefooted, refractory,
Lying down in the melting snow.
There were times we regretted
The summer palaces on slopes, the terraces,
And the silken girls bringing sherbet.
Then the camel men cursing and grumbling
and running away, and wanting their liquor and women,
And the night-fires going out, and the lack of shelters,
And the cities hostile and the towns unfriendly
And the villages dirty and charging high prices:
A hard time we had of it.
At the end we preferred to travel all night,
Sleeping in snatches,
With the voices singing in our ears, saying
That this was all folly.
Then at dawn we came down to a temperate valley,
Wet, below the snow line, smelling of vegetation;
With a running stream and a water-mill beating the darkness,
And three trees on the low sky,
And an old white horse galloped away in the meadow.
Then we came to a tavern with vine-leaves over the lintel,
Six hands at an open door dicing for pieces of silver,
And feet kiking the empty wine-skins.
But there was no information, and so we continued
And arriving at evening, not a moment too soon
Finding the place; it was (you might say) satisfactory.
All this was a long time ago, I remember,
And I would do it again, but set down
This set down
This: were we led all that way for
Birth or Death? There was a Birth, certainly
We had evidence and no doubt. I had seen birth and death,
But had thought they were different; this Birth was
Hard and bitter agony for us, like Death, our death.
We returned to our places, these Kingdoms,
But no longer at ease here, in the old dispensation,
With an alien people clutching their gods.
I should be glad of another death.