1Arise, shine; for your light has come, and the glory of the Lord has risen upon you. 2For darkness shall cover the earth, and thick darkness the peoples; but the Lord will arise upon you, and his glory will appear over you. 3Nations shall come to your light, and kings to the brightness of your dawn. 4Lift 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. 5Then 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. 6A 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.
The Old Testament book of Isaiah can be divided into three sections – Pre-Exile, Exile and Post-Exile. Pre-Exile (chapters 1-39) clarify the sad state of affairs of Israel that has brought them to this point of dread and defeat. They have turned their backs to God, worshipped other gods, and become a divided and broken nation. Yes, there are glimmers of hope for the future, but first there will be a time of punishment and pain. Exile (chapters 40-55), the people of God find themselves in Babylon, far away from the Promised Land. They mourn and cry out to God to deliver them. Once again, there are glimmers of hope. Post Exile (chapters 56-66), the Israelites make their way back to the land they once inhabited, filled with hope. They are also given a charge and a promise.
The promise is that God’s light has risen upon them. The charge is to be a light to the nations.
Notice that the Light is not their own, but a reflection of what God has given them. God is the source. The nation of Israel is to be a reflection of the light.
On a dark, foggy night, a ship came upon the light of another vessel. The captain radioed his counterpart.
“Please divert your course 15 degrees to the North to avoid a collision.”
Through the crackly radio came the reply: “Recommend you divert YOUR course 15 degrees to the South to avoid a collision"
The captain stood his ground. He radioed: “This is the captain of a US Navy ship. I say again, divert YOUR course.”
And again came the reply: “No, I say again, you divert YOUR course.”
Outraged, the captain spoke loudly into the radio: “THIS IS THE AIRCRAFT CARRIER USS ABRAHAM LINCOLN, THE SECOND LARGEST SHIP IN THE UNITED STATES’ ATLANTIC FLEET. WE ARE ACCOMPANIED BY THREE DESTROYERS, THREE CRUISERS AND NUMEROUS SUPPORT VESSELS. I DEMAND THAT YOU CHANGE YOUR COURSE 15 DEGREES NORTH. THAT’S ONE-FIVE DEGREES NORTH.”
And came the reply: “This is a lighthouse. Your call.”
As we enter into this season of Epiphany, we give thanks for the light. But let us remember – you and I are NOT the light. Instead, we are called to reflect the light. God is God, and you and I are not.
The charge to Israel is the charge to us as the People of God, the Body of Christ, the Church today – God’s light has come to us – may we reflect the light and love and forgiveness and hope of God. May God’s light shine through us to all. A light to the nations. A light to our neighbors. A light to our families and friends. A light. A reflection of God’s true light.
The light shines in the darkness…
Arise, shine for your light has come!
Let us pray:
Everlasting God, the radiance of all faithful people, you brought the nations to the brightness of your rising. Fill the world with your glory, and show yourself to all the world through him who is the true light and the bright morning star, your Son, Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.