“The People who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who lived in a land of deep darkness – on them light has shined. You have multiplied the nation, you have increased its joy.”
On Christmas Eve we hear this comforting familiar text from Isaiah 9, and this year we hear it again during the Season of Epiphany. Our ears perk up at this. We know what it is to live in a land of deep darkness, not just because it is January in a northern country, but because of the multiple traumas and dislocations assaulting Earth and its peoples, the famines, floods, as well as an epidemic of mental illness and depression especially amongst young people. “On them light has shined.” Epiphany stretches our imaginations about light in dark places, even light that brings joy! It is our work as disciples of Jesus to bring that light of Christ into all the dark places of our world.
One of those songs from Sunday School that many of us sang whole-heartedly because it spoke vividly and simply of our commitment to follow Jesus:
“This little light of mine,
I’m gonna let it shine.
This little light of mine,
I’m gonna let it shine…”
During Epiphany Season, we focus on our baptismal ministry, which is our response to Christ’s birth. As disciples, followers of Jesus, we reflect the light of Christ. We shine the light of Christ, God’s unconditional love, into all the places we live, the unique situations in which we find ourselves. In some ways, this reflecting Christ’s light into a particular circumstance is simple. In other ways, it takes imagination and creativity, being attentive to the needs around us. It often takes great patience. Phoning a friend who is lonely or isolated; taking a pot of soup to someone who is sick; treating all we meet with respect and dignity; bringing simple kindness and humanity into all our mundane interactions; writing letters to municipal leaders to encourage upgrading the recycling program in our town; joining the group cleaning the invasive species out of the park…. How do you let your light shine?
In order to reflect light, we have to stay near the Source of Light. Or, like the moon reflecting the sun, we stay in the path of that light, so it shines on us.
Discipleship is the life-long process of becoming like Christ: of growing in lives of service. Epiphany is a season to focus on opening ourselves to that transformation. Pray that God will recharge our batteries, reinvigorate us with the vitality of the Holy Spirit, energize us to shine!
One of the Lambeth “Calls to the Church” from summer 2022 was a call to Discipleship. This call drew on our bible study of a passage from 1 Peter, who called his community of disciples to “be serious and discipline yourselves for the sake of your prayers. … Like good stewards of the manifold grace of God, serve one another with whatever gift each of you has received.”
Michael Curry, the presiding bishop (like our Primate) of the Episcopal Church USA, addressed us the day we looked at the Lambeth Call to discipleship; “Something profound happens in a person’s life when their centre of gravity, or centre of life, is no longer the self but Jesus of Nazareth,” Curry said. “That’s when we become the light of the world. …they changed the world in the first century, and if it can happen to them in the first century, it can happen to us in the 21st century.”
Let it shine! Let it shine! Let it shine!
Yours in Christ,
Prayer for Epiphany Season:
With love as fresh as the winter air and pristine as newly fallen snow, you bless our lives, O God. Like a blanket of snow, you wrap a mantle of peace about us, protecting us from savage winter winds. We praise you, O God, for love as blessed as sun in the depths of winter. Grant us the grace to take shelter in your Spirit, and the compassion to draw inside those confronted by all harsh elements. Amen.
(Diane Karay — All the Seasons of Mercy)