Saturday 4th January Arise and Shine
Isaiah 60: 1 – 6
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.
Lift 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.
Then 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.
A 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 liturgical season that Isaiah 60 inaugurates is a season of revelation. Epiphany, in the Early Church, was not about the arrival of the Magi but the revelation of Jesus Christ at his baptism, to the whole world as God’s only and beloved child. Epiphany is God’s self-revelation to the world, the beginning of Christ’s public ministry. It was one of the three major feasts of the liturgical calendar around which faith communities organized the rhythms of their life: Easter, Epiphany, Pentecost (not Christmas or a Nativity scene or Magi!).
Current thinking is that this passage is situated in the sixth century BCE as the exiles returned to Jerusalem. In Jerusalem, a major conflict had arisen between those who remained and those who returned. Living conditions were extremely difficult. Jerusalem was in ruins. The people were now divided again – not against some outside threat or enemy, but among themselves.
Chapters 58 and 59 are characterized by gloom, by despair, by a call to repentance. They are also marked by a yearning for light and glory to come.
The opening line of Isaiah 60 is like a thunderbolt of glory. What surprises is the abruptness of the shift from doom and gloom to light and glory. God erupts! He arises and shines forth in glory! God’s glory in the Hebrew Scripture is always God’s presence. God’s presence, His very own face, is designated by glory. God does not possess glory — God is glory.
Now this glory and light arises among the people. It is the Lord who arises among them, giving what the Lord gives: life and salvation. But this giving is not just for the remnant of Israel, it is not just for those who have returned from exile, but for all the nations. Now, all the nations will come to the Lord. Just as in Isaiah 6, the Temple could not contain the glory now also here, the people of Israel cannot contain it. The presence of God expands outwards toward the whole cosmos. Thanks be to God.
Brilliant God, we frequently wander around in deep, dull darkness.
Lord, we ask that we may be illuminated by your grace and love.
Let us radiate and reflect the brilliance of your light.
Shine through us, so that we may share you with others.
In Jesus name we pray, Amen