Scripture: Isaiah 60:1–6 (Today’s Readings)
Arise, shine; for thy light is come, and the glory of the Lord is risen upon thee. For, behold, the darkness shall cover the earth, and gross darkness the people: but the Lord shall arise upon thee, and His glory shall be seen upon thee. And the Gentiles shall come to thy light, and kings to the brightness of thy rising. (Isaiah 60:1-3)
Light is essential to biological life; light in life indicates vitality and prosperity. Light is essential to vision. In Genesis, God summons light — its creation is a direct result of God’s command. It is with light that the first day of creation is born. This occurs in the second sentence of the Bible.
One of the most dramatic passages in choral music occurs about eight minutes into the beginning of Franz Joseph Haydn’s oratorio, The Creation. The orchestra begins with an extended, wandering prelude depicting the earth without form and void. The narrator enters, still very quietly, with the opening words of Genesis. On the word “light,” the full orchestra and choir burst forth with a subito fortissimo. The oratorio moves swiftly from this defining moment.
What a marvelous image we have to usher in our journey through the Bible and our ongoing image of the Divine: Jesus, the Light of the World. “Thy Word is a lamp to my feet and a light for my path.” Echoing Isaiah, Matthew says of the arrival of Jesus, “the people living in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of the shadow of death a light has dawned.” The Psalmist speaks of the Lord being the “Light of My Salvation” T. S. Elliot has a stunning poem in his pageant play, The Rock: “O Light Invisible, We Praise Thee.” The poem/prayer is a meditation in and of itself.
In these days of winter, when darkness increasingly covers the earth, we all crave the coveted hours of daylight. We light lanterns and tapers; we cover our Christmas trees and cottages with colorful coruscations; we escape to places where we can soak in sunshine. We yearn for spring, when each day unfolds with more brilliance than the one before. With this escalation of effulgence we associate budding flowers and trees — the reassurance of renewed life.
Not only do we long for more light, we long for the warmth associated with its luminosity. And so it is with God’s presence in our lives. We have an inborn need for the radiance and warmth emanating from the Light of the World. What are the sources of light in your own world which illuminate the love and grace of the Divine?
Prayer: Dear God, we want to see your brightness. Clear sun of righteousness, shine on our path and show us the way to the Father. In you, O God, there is no darkness at all; the night and the day are both alike. The Lamb is the light of the city of God. Shine in our hearts, Lord Jesus. Amen.
Contributed by Mark A. Anderson
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Artwork: Detail of No Between © Jan L. Richardson. janrichardson.com. Inspired by Isaiah 64:1: “O that You would tear open the heavens and come down … .”