Chasing the Light
The people who lived in darkness have seen a great light; those who dwelt in a land of deep darkness, on them has light shined - Isaiah 9:2
The verse above from the prophet Isaiah was declared several centuries before the birth of Christ and spoke to an entirely different historical context. Still, it's read during both the seasons of Christmas and Epiphany.
Even though Isaiah is speaking hope in the midst of the awful conquest of the Northern Kingdom of Israel by Assyria, there is a universality to his words that echo all the way to our own time.
Isaiah speaks of a dream of a liberator. He cries out to the people sharing his vision of a world made right, and of a Savior who will bring peace to a war-torn land.
His words speak into the harsh realities of every person ever touched by the horrors of war, the pain of strife and struggle, and the grief that comes with the loss of what was.
There are both "now" and "not yet" aspects of this prophecy, which was more of a hopeful vision than a prediction. The prophet proclaims that the people in darkness have seen the light. The world may not yet be what it should be, but the light is beginning to dispel the darkness.
This is precisely the message of Jesus in nearly all of his teachings about God's kingdom. The kingdom of God is "coming," Jesus taught, and "it is now."
Further, those of us who call ourselves Jesus-followers believe something incredible and transformative: We believe that somehow, the presence of Christ is all around us, in us, and through us.
This might seem like a stretch for some people, but it's easy to comprehend when we understand more fully the eternal rhythms of dying and rising that are part of Creation itself.
These eternal rhythms help us to see more clearly what Christ embodied through Jesus of Nazareth's life, ministry, death, and resurrection. We also fall hard on the promises made to his followers that he would be with them "until the end of the age."
Theologian Jurgen Moltmann wrote about Isaiah's prophecy and its meaning, and he had this to say:
So according to the New Testament the dream of a liberator and the dream of peace, is not merely a dream. The liberator is already present and his power is already among us. We can follow him, even today making visible something of the peace, liberty and righteousness of the kingdom that he will complete. It is no longer impossible.
There's so much to love about that statement.
It speaks of the hope we can have in our dreams of a better world free from war, strife, bigotry, hatred, and division. This is not an impossible hope; the dreams that come with it are not "merely" dreams but attainable realities.
Beloved, we have seen a great light. It has been visible all around us from the moment we breathed our first breath.
But we too often retreat into the darkness because we fear what the light will reveal about us. And then we find it's so much easier to curse the darkness than to embrace the light.
We find ourselves trapped between our longing for liberation and peace and our fear of being exposed. The latter is a lie, to be absolutely blunt. We have no reason to fear the light shining on us because it's not an accusing kind of light.
The light of Christ brings freedom, peace, hope, and love.
During this Season of Epiphany, we would do well to follow Christ's light and then realize that the light within us is strengthened and magnified by it. When we follow this light, we make God's kingdom more visible. We allow others to see.
May it be so. And may the grace and peace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with us all, now and forever. Amen.