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.
Today’s devotional passage shows a contrast between light and dark. Light is good, dark is not. The thick dark that covers the people could be night or it could be danger or ignorance or fear. Historically, it was all of these, as the Israelites had returned home from their long exile and were anxious to know if the light of the Lord would still shine on them. They worried that God had abandoned them, that they would not see the light of the Lord again.
Have you ever been in the dark? Overwhelmed by the dark? Felt like your world is dark? Sometimes life does that. Every day seems dark, foreboding, full of angst or anxiety. Last year, I felt overwhelmed by that kind of overwhelming dark. My health, while normally excellent, was naggingly bad, with colds and flu and injury. My daughter and her husband were in a dark place with no jobs, no place to live (but with us) and feeling glum. Another daughter was confronted with health issues of her own. Concerns in our neighborhood boiled over into difficult meetings and conflicts. Sometimes, these small pictures add up to one overall dark landscape and we forget who we really are.
We truly are the people of the Lord. Sometimes, when the Lord rises upon us, we can see the glory that this verse reveals to us. The rising or setting sun, the laughter of a child, the wisdom of age, the stars in the dark sky, the love freely given to us are all ways the Lord has lit our world. Our world isn’t so dark after all.
Although my health waned, I didn’t have anything life threatening or requiring months of treatment and doctor visits. Although my children lived with us, we shared the household chores and meals and got to see them as adults with their own visions and yearnings rather than as the children of our memories. Neighborhoods are made up of people who may complain, but can rise to the occasion and support one another, often in surprising ways.
We will soon experience the shortest, darkest day of the year. We are also closing in on one of the brightest of Christian holidays, the celebration of Jesus’s birth, the beginning of his time on earth, and the message and salvation he brought to us. Despite the short days and the long, dark nights, it’s good to remember, “the LORD rises upon you and his glory appears over you.” And because God’s light is within us and for us, the dark isn’t worrisome at all. It’s the brief time before the glory of God’s light rises like the sun over us.