Thursday, January 06, 2011

The Light of God Arises -- A Meditation for Epiphany

Epiphany Times Three -- Kathrin Burleson
Isaiah 60


When the darkness covers the earth, and we feel hope ebbing away, we are tempted to give up and let fate have its way. Why bother with life? Why try to make things better? One’s enemies lie round about, undermining everything one wishes to do. It is a common feeling. It can permeate a family wrestling with financial crises or medical ones. It could be a church that has experienced continued decline and doesn’t see how it can be a redemptive and transformative presence in the world. It can be a community – large or small – whose best days seem long past, and now the nay-sayers have taken hold, keeping the community from moving forward. When the clouds hang round about us, when we’re unable to see the sun and the stars and the moon, and wonder about the future, we hear a word from the prophet:

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. (Is. 60:1-2)

Today we come to celebrate the Day of Epiphany, the manifestation of the Light that is God, a light that shines our darkness, so that we no longer need to depend on the Sun or on the Moon, but we can trust in God.

This post-exilic prophet speaks to a people who had been scattered and now have received the invitation to return home, they’re lit by the light that is God. There is a bit of triumphalism in this passage, for the vision includes statements about foreigners building up the walls of the city and the nations bringing their wealth to Jerusalem as tribute. It is a common vision for a people who have been suppressed and oppressed, but perhaps we could extend the vision some and instead of seeing the conquerors becoming supplicants, we can see in it a vision of a partnership between peoples. As the Light of God rises in our midst, we can put aside our need either for revenge or for control, but instead engage each other as equals, building a new city, the city of God.

On this Day of Epiphany may we bask in the light that is God. May we allow this light to permeate all the dark corners of our lives, exposing those areas of our existence that keep us from experiencing and expressing the love that is God. And in the end, we will express our trust in the one who says:


I am the Lord;
in its time I will accomplish it quickly. (Isaiah 60:22b).

With Isaiah’s vision in our minds, we turn to remember the one, whom Christians hail as the one who manifests the light and glory of God on earth, Jesus the Christ. May his light shine in our darkness, revealing the love and the grace and the glory that is God. And if we’re willing to receive this light into our lives, may we join together in building a world that is full of light and not darkness, a place where good will and peace reigns over all, and that this peace and this good will shall come not from military might, but through persistent but loving action in pursuit of the justice of God.

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