Wednesday, January 6, 2016

Epiphany: Light to the Nations

Arise, shine, for your light has come, and the glory of the LORD rises upon you. See, darkness covers the earth and thick darkness is over the peoples, but the LORD rises upon you and his glory appears over you.

Nations will come to your light, and kings to the brightness of your dawn. Lift up your eyes and look about you: All assemble and come to you; your sons come from afar, and your daughters are carried on the hip.

Then you will look and be radiant, your heart will throb and swell with joy; the wealth on the seas will be brought to you, to you the riches of the nations will come. Herds of camels will cover your land, young camels of Midian and Ephah. And all from Sheba will come, bearing gold and incense and proclaiming the praise of the LORD. (Isaiah 60:1-6)
“Arise, shine,” Isaiah says to Jerusalem, “for your light has come.” In a world of darkness, light shines brightly. The Law and the Prophets, Jesus said, are about him. So the Church has, from the beginning, understood this light as Jesus himself.

John the Gospeler tells us of this Light, the Word who was in the beginning with God, and is God, and who became flesh and dwelt among us. “In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it ... The true light that gives light to everyone was coming into the world” (John 1:4-5, 9).

All the nations and kings of the world will come to this Light and see its brightness, Isaiah says. In the season of Epiphany, we celebrate how the Light of Christ first began to be revealed to the world, and how the world began to come to its brightness. The Magi who followed the light of the Star all the way to Bethlehem were the first from the nations to recognize Lord Jesus as God’s Messiah King (Matthew 2:1-12). They came, as Isaiah foretold, “bearing gold and incense and proclaiming the praise of the LORD.”

“Lift up your eyes and look about you,” Isaiah says, “All assemble and come to you”— sons and daughters from afar, gathered from among the nations. The mystery hidden here in Isaiah but revealed in the gospel is that these sons and daughters include the nations.
For this reason I, Paul, the prisoner of Christ Jesus for the sake of you Gentiles — Surely you have heard about the administration of God’s grace that was given to me for you, that is, the mystery made known to me by revelation, as I have already written briefly. In reading this, then, you will be able to understand my insight into the mystery of Christ, which was not made known to people in other generations as it has now been revealed by the Spirit to God’s holy apostles and prophets. This mystery is that through the gospel the Gentiles are heirs together with Israel, members together of one body, and sharers together in the promise in Christ Jesus. I became a servant of this gospel by the gift of God’s grace given me through the working of his power. (Ephesians 3:1-6)
Paul’s great glory and delight, then, was to shine this light to the nations, for God is gathering many sons and daughters to the new Jerusalem, to reveal the light of Christ not only to them but through them. This has always been God’s purpose, “that now, through the church, the manifold wisdom of God should be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly realms, according to his eternal purpose that he accomplished in Christ Jesus our Lord. In him and through faith in him we may approach God with freedom and confidence” (Ephesians 3:10-12).

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