Bible Reading: Isaiah 9:2, 60:1-3,19
The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of deep darkness a light has dawned.
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.
The sun will no more be your light by day, nor will the brightness of the moon shine on you, for the Lord will be your everlasting light, and your God will be your glory.
These verses from the prophet Isaiah are normally associated with Christmas; the first, prophesying the coming of Jesus, is usually read at a Carol Service while the second, prophesying the arrival of the kings, is normally read at Epiphany. Originally though they were words of hope given to the Jewish nation, promising an end to their exile in Babylon.
In exile the Jewish nation had lost its land, its temple and its identity, and the people were living in a country that worshipped foreign gods. But even in those dark times there was hope. They would return home, they would rebuild their temple, the nation would be restored. No matter how bleak the situation seemed, God was faithful to his people, even if they were not faithful to him.
Jesus is the light of the world today, shining in the darkest places on the earth. The light of Jesus still shines in Haiti where Christians suffer alongside their neighbours, shining the light of Christ by through their words and through their actions. The light of Christ is also shining in Afghanistan where minority groups of Christians meet in secret and share the hope that they have in Jesus.
Jesus came as the light of the world; your light and mine. The light that he brings, as Isaiah says, is not a light that dawns and sets like the light of the sun, or a light that waxes and wanes like the light of the moon, the light that Jesus gives is an everlasting light, a light that the darkness will never put out. Whatever darkness we might face in life, Jesus is our light, a light that overcomes the darkness.
Sometimes, it seems, the darkness we face is caused by our own shadows, whether it is the shadows of fear or of sin, or whether it is the shadows of sickness or of death. When we are living with our own shadows let us turn around to face the light that is Jesus, our shadows will then be behind us; healed, forgiven, forgotten, and the glory of God will be before us.
And if you have turned to Jesus then you have the light of Christ within you. As Jesus says, ‘You are the light of the world.’ Let us then do as Isaiah commands, ‘Arise and shine’, and let the light of Christ dispel the darkness around us.
Lord Jesus, in the dark places of this world, may your light shine.
In my words and in my actions, may your light shine.
Christ be our light