But now thus says the Lord,
he who created you, O Jacob,
he who formed you, O Israel:
Do not fear, for I have redeemed you;
I have called you by name, you are mine.
When you pass through the waters, I will be with you;
and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you;
when you walk through fire you shall not be burned,
and the flame shall not consume you.
For I am the Lord your God,
the Holy One of Israel, your Savior.
I give Egypt as your ransom,
Ethiopia and Seba in exchange for you.
Because you are precious in my sight,
and honored, and I love you,
I give people in return for you,
nations in exchange for your life.
Do not fear, for I am with you;
I will bring your offspring from the east,
and from the west I will gather you;
I will say to the north, “Give them up,”
and to the south, “Do not withhold;
bring my sons from far away
and my daughters from the end of the earth—
everyone who is called by my name,
whom I created for my glory,
whom I formed and made.”
Epiphany is a time to celebrate the incarnation: God with us in the person of Jesus Christ. On this day, January 6th, for most of us the busyness of the Christmas season is behind us. Family and friends have gone home and we are settling back into regular routines. Often we rush to put away Christmas decorations to focus on the New Year.
Here in early January, the daylight hours are short and we greet the morning and the evening in the darkness. In this time of darkness, the Season of Epiphany offers us a different way to see the world around us. It calls us to slow down so that we might be open to new insights.
These verses from Isaiah may not be new to those who have spent years reading the Bible, but the revelation they offer in our current days can be new. As lyrical as the poetry of the Psalms and as wise as the mantras from Proverbs, these verses offer hope and comfort to people who are living in pain and confusion.
We are those people. A year that began with promise as vaccines became available quickly abated as new virus variants assaulted our communities. A time offering hope that partisan matters might be put aside spiraled into divisiveness over vaccine mandates. The normal summer we were all awaiting never happened, leaving many of us in pain and confusion.
Unparalleled numbers of people struggle with depression and anxiety. Overdose rates are rising in staggering numbers. Racial inequality awaits decisive action.
“When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you; when you walk through fire you shall not be burned, and the flame shall not consume you” (v. 2).
I remember the love and grace I have seen during two of the most difficult years in many of our lives. I give thanks for the healthcare workers who have given beyond measure. I no longer take for granted seeing loved ones in person. I receive the kindness offered as forgetfulness and fugue claimed heart and mind.
May you also find hope, comfort, and joy in the words of Isaiah as you embrace this Epiphany and know the presence of God with us.