I don’t think it’s a coincidence that in the darkest days of the year, we celebrate light. On the feast of Epiphany, we hear “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.” Isaiah 60:1-3. We also hear the story of how the magi followed the star to find the Christ child. In the darkness of winter when the days are so much shorter, we long for the light. Light is an interesting image—we bring things to light, light helps plants grow, light is healing, in the gospel of John, Jesus is described as the “light of the world,” a light which no darkness can overcome.
But sadly, darkness is also our reality. Any night that you watch the news will verify that such is the case. We hear stories of pain and suffering, of hunger and homelessness, of tent encampments in St. John’s and other cities. If you do an internet search on global conflicts, you will find so much of our world is at war. Wait! Did we not just go through Advent focusing on hope, peace, love and joy? Did we not just celebrate Christmas and the coming of the Prince of Peace?
Well, yes, we did. Just as it is no coincidence that we celebrate light at the darkest time of the year, it is no coincidence that we celebrate the season of Epiphany—the revelation of who Jesus is and who we are called to be, just after we celebrate the incarnation—the breaking in of God into our hurting and damaged world.
In this season, Jesus is revealed as a light to the nations, at his baptism as the beloved son of God in whom God is well pleased. Then Jesus calls the disciples, and us, to follow him and, long after his time on earth, to be his hands and feet, to be the means by which his love is made manifest. That sounds like a lot, doesn’t it? It does to me. But here’s a story that demonstrates just how much light we can each shine on this world. A family moved to Newfoundland for one of them to study. As newcomers, they needed to find a place to live. By chance, in the Dollar Store, the mother asked someone if she knew of any apartments to rent. She could have said, no, and moved on, but she didn’t. She helped the family find a place to live and then helped them settle in, going with the parents to register the child for school. In the darkness of uncertainty, light shone.
There is darkness, that is true. But there is also the light of love. In this season of Epiphany, we celebrate the light.