Arise, shine …

“Arise, shine; for your light has come ….”[1] I hope this one line of Scripture makes you feel like smiling; it certainly makes me smile. In fact, I hope it makes you feel radiant; especially this evening as we have just witnessed the power of light to push aside – to overcome – darkness.

We entered this space quietly, in relative darkness, yet we greeted each other in light and peace in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. As we prayed for light, and candles were lit, that gracious light gradually pushed aside the darkness until we were able to behold not only the nativity scene, but especially the Christ child – the incarnation of God – the source of gracious light.

This tangible demonstration of the power of light is a reminder for us to always appreciate the power of light. After all, it is easy to begin to take light for granted when it is available at the flick of a switch. Thus demonstrations such as this are helpful reminders of the source of light.

So beginning tonight, and for the next seven-plus weeks, our focus will be on this particular appearance of light – this manifestation or appearance of Jesus Christ – not just to his own kind – Palestinian Jews – but to all kinds, even Gentiles like you and me.

Matthew’s lesson tells us of this first, awesome manifestation or revelation to the wise men, those Gentiles from other nations; but it also tells us how the revelation is received by Herod and those in power. While the wise men, or magi, are overwhelmed with joy, Herod and those in power are afraid.

Why these different reactions? Perhaps Herod, amid his concern about his political status, can’t see beyond what he perceives as a possible threat to his status. Yet, the magi, as astrologers – students of celestial light – are open to the wonder and spectacle of it. Perhaps it is a matter of perspective. Are we fearful or are we hopeful – what are we looking for?

What is clear is the powers of the world are not ready for the light that illumines something other than themselves. Yet the people and Gentiles of light are more than ready to follow the light that leads them to something greater than themselves. Happily, this is not the only story of light revealed; the Gospel is full of other stories about the manifestation of light and life. Though there is only one Feast Day of Epiphany, the banquet of light will continue.

The season after Epiphany is more than seven weeks long, and it will be full of other manifestations of God in Jesus Christ. So join us regularly as we search for other encounters of the light of God in Jesus Christ. We will find this light in Scripture; we will find it in prayer; we will find it in Holy Communion and in each of the Sacraments; but we will also find it in each other as we begin to seek the same light as the wise men, and we will begin to see Jesus Christ in each other and in ourselves.

I can assure you this is true because I see his light in and among you. After all, the power of light shall overcome darkness. Therefore, let it be so with you now because we can’t suppress the light forever. “Arise, shine; for your light has come ….”

 

[1] Isaiah 60:1

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Whose child are you?

How often do we intentionally stop and think of ourselves as children of God? Personally, this isn’t my default inclination. If someone asks whose child are you, I bet most of us think of our parents; what we may refer to as our family of origin. After all, this is the context in which the question is usually asked.

However, today we have a different context; we have a couple of stories that invite us to think differently about our family of origin – stories that invite us to think differently about the source of our identity.

In the book of Genesis[1], we are told that God makes all humankind in his image; and today, in the book of Numbers, we are reminded that not only do we share God’s image, but that God desires to share her identity with us as well.

In this story God tells Moses that Aaron and his sons “shall put my name on the Israelites, and I will bless them.”[2] Put my name on the Israelites. It’s almost as if they are being marked with God’s brand. We understand and receive this as the following blessing:

“The Lord bless you and keep you;

the Lord make his face to shine upon you, and be gracious to you;

the Lord lift up his countenance upon you, and give you peace.”[3]

In this blessing we are reminded of our giftedness and sealed as children of God. Yet from time to time, we lose sight of our blessedness, our giftedness, and our role as stewards of creation; however, God does not lose sight of us as his children.

Over and over again, God reminds us that we are her children and that God desires us to turn around and return. The latest revelation of God’s love and desire for us was received just eight days ago, when we were told by an angel that to us is born “in the city of David a Savior, who is the Messiah, the Lord.”[4]

God has revealed himself to us time and time again, but this revelation is different than those that came before. This revelation is incarnate – in the flesh – with us amid all the messiness of humanity. Incarnation makes this revelation different. God is no longer an abstract idea, one that is out of sight and easy to put out of mind.

This time God comes in the flesh – as one of us – who can be seen and touched and followed so that the more experiential of us can touch, taste, and see what it means to “love [Yahweh] your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.[5]

Incarnation also means that the Messiah will participate in our human rituals. The first ritual he encounters is his naming, which is only summarized here in this one verse. “After eight days had passed, it was time to circumcise the child; and he was called Jesus, the name given by the angel before he was conceived in the womb.”[6]

It is only one verse and it is not repeated anywhere in the Bible; yet it is loaded with so much significance. Not only has God come to us in the flesh to participate in life with us, but this moment marks the beginning of a new covenant through a ritual of the old covenant.

In Hebrew when a covenant is made it is said to be “cut”. The tangible or physical reminder of the old covenant between God and his people was the cut of circumcision as borne by males.

As the sign of the new covenant, Jesus, whose name means “Yahweh saves,” takes it upon himself to satisfy the old covenant today so that all people can be saved and participate in this new covenant.

So today this new covenant between us and Yahweh our creator is “cut” in this naming ceremony of circumcision as the Messiah receives the holy name of Jesus. Jesus, as fully divine and also fully human enters into this new covenant with God and invites us to join him.

You and I have entered this new covenant through our Baptism. Thus, in addition to being reminded of the cutting of the new covenant, an added significance of this day is that we are reminded of our baptized identity as adopted children and heirs of God.

The naming of God’s Son initiates this new covenant and opens the door for us to enter into this covenant with him as adopted children and heirs. In this covenant our identity is altered – it is expanded beyond our family or tribe of origin into the Body of Christ where we become something new and more than we were before.

Today you and I are called to remember and reclaim our connectedness to the Creator. We are called to remember and reclaim our blessedness, and our role as the children of God to live out this legacy of stewardship, of obedience, of sacrifice, and of love so we can fully claim our identity – not as individuals – but as children of God fully alive in the Body of Christ.

Whose child are you?  You are a child of God!

[1] Genesis 1:27

[2] Numbers 6:27

[3] Ibid., vv. 24-26

[4] Luke 2:11

[5] Deuteronomy 6:5

[6] Luke 2:21