Excerpted from Keep Awake, an Advent Guide for Lectionary Year A from the North Carolina Council of Churches.
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 in 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 feast of the Epiphany is one of the oldest festival holidays in Christianity. It is meant to be a time of celebration, as it represents the first manifestation of Jesus Christ’s divinity. On that day, the Magi, otherwise known as the Wise Men, came to Jesus with blessings and gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh.
The Epiphany celebrates the unity between those from different backgrounds–kings of different lands coming together to welcome the Lord. In a time when darkness covers the land, and people’s hearts have grown cold so as not to welcome and love our neighbors, we must enrich our spirits with the true message of Jesus Christ: virtues of peace, love, trust, and unity
In the present, we have come to think of this time of year as a restful transition from the hustle and bustle of the passing advent holidays. In many ways, the day of Epiphany has come to represent a return to normality. However, last year struck a very different tone for January 6th within the United States, as discord ran rampant and political extremes boiled to the surface of our nation.
This year, I ask you to reflect on the true meaning of today, as a day of unity and love. The day that Wise Men reacted to the presence of the Lord with kindness and adoration, rather than violence and anger. In the darkest of times, we are called to follow the Lord. May he lead us away from animosity and uncertainty, and towards times of unity and peace. Even in the darkness of the night, we may dream of love and hope. However, if we are truly to see the light, we are called to take it upon ourselves to make our dreams a reality.
Enlighten our minds and awaken our souls, Lord. Let us acknowledge the darkness within our nations and look towards a new dawn, rather than glorify the wickedness of those who seek to live within nightmares.
“Lift up your eyes and look around; they all gather together… Then you shall see and be radiant; your heart shall thrill and rejoice” In this same spirit, as people of faith, we are called to come together and see the world in all its turmoil and beauty. If the Lord is to truly welcome our spirits, we must first come to him, gathered as one, with open eyes and love in our hearts.
If these words find you in a dark place in your own life, I only hope that these thoughts may provide comfort and hope for a brighter future.
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