Isaiah 60:1-6

Psalm 72:1-7, 10-14

Ephesians 3:1-12

Matthew 2:1-12

We don'€™t know about the rest of you, but we have both experienced darkness in our lives that seemed like it might not end. For both of us 2007 began by ending marriages that were doing more damage than good, finding different places to work, and beginning the struggle of finding a new community. 2007 began with four or five months of Inky Darkness.

Have you known Darkness? It sits heavy on your chest and makes it tough to breathe, it pins you down in your bed (in a bad way), it causes tastes and smells and colors to not have depth and vibrance. Sometimes life goes so Dark it is difficult to remember what light looks like.

However, the great thing about being God'€™s creation is that there are also moments when everything is full of Life and Light and blue streams and green pastures and the world is full of Potential.

This week we celebrate the feast of the Epiphany. On the twelfth day after Christmas the ancient church celebrated the Incarnation of Christ (bringing light to the world), the Baptism of Jesus (washing away darkness), the Visitation of the Wise Men (following the Light in the sky), and the miracle of the Wedding at Cana (making a potentially dark evening a night full of joy). Epiphany was a big day in the early church. Still today we look toward this festival with excitement and expectation as we recognize and remember the Life and Light that bubbles in each of us. The questions of how and why are not as important on this day - the focus is on the Excitement of Potential.

Even among the darkness this year contained for both of us new jobs, the development and growth of relationship, finding a new community, and understanding in new ways (possibly for the first time) the meaning of compassion, love, forgiveness, grace, and commitment.

There are days when, after spending a Great While in a Deep Darkness, a Light Shines and drives the darkness away. Some days, after spending time in a Heavy Thirst, there is a Cool Drink of Water that offers greater refreshment that could have imagined. Every once in a while, after breathing nothing but Polluted Air, a Fresh Clean Breeze blows and the green leaves sing.

This week the writers are all dreaming of and living toward the place of All Light. They are dreaming of how wonderful the world could be when everything is Just Right. They are appreciating...they are wallowing around in the Presence of God. They are dreaming of the potential of the Kingdom.

It continues to be important to look at the context of scripture so we can understand the magnitude of what is being said, felt, and experienced in order to consider the same magnitude in our own context.

This week's reading from Isaiah continues to wax poetic about what Jerusalem will look like when everything is restored. The prophet is envisioning a time and space when the Temple is restored and surrounding nations honor Jerusalem. These verses depict a vision of Jerusalem as the victor and the dominant power within its cultural sphere.

The Psalmist asks God to bestow every good thing on their King. Again, it is a beautiful picture that is painted of what the perfect leader could or might look like. The writer also envisions the society built and maintained by this ideal leader - one where justice reigns and the poor and needy are lifted up. Like the prophet Isaiah, the Psalmist writes from a place and time where there is little division between faith, economics and politics. And, also like Isaiah, the Psalmist dreams of a day when Light will again reign over Darkness.

A world with no divisions among people is Paul'€™s Dream of Light. He proclaims that God, through Jesus Christ, reaches out to all people--Jews and Gentiles together. He expands the vision past faith, economic and political spheres. He is not talking about the Temple in Jerusalem - he is talking about a nation without the drag of ethnic or political boundaries.

And specifically in Matthew 2.10 we see the Magi, the Wise Men, overwhelmed with joy because they are experiencing God in flesh and they see nothing but potential. These men are not Jews, and they are paying homage to the new "King." The context of Israel's historic expectation is being redefined, stretched and expanded.

The word €chiaroscuro refers to the use of light and dark in art. Many people who have spent time painting have learned that sometimes to make a light space really bright, it has to be placed right next to a dark space. Sometimes we need the darkness to appreciate and see and understand the light.

In our lives, the dark times not only make the light seem brighter - time in darkness draws out details and offers changed perspective. The times we feel all alone and separated from God give us the chance to appreciate the times of light and joy. The moments of light help us have a different understanding of the dark days.

Times of darkness make us able to appreciate subtle moments of joy when they are present. Because light shines in the darkness and darkness has not overcome it, we can live confidently knowing that our lives (individually and as a community of followers) are made up of both.

This past year, we've walked at times in deep, seemingly Impenetrable Darkness; and, this past year, we've seen a Great Light.

+What do you know/observe/remember/experience during dark times?
+What do you know/observe/remember/experience during light times?
+How is God present in your light times and your dark times?
+What do you learn from times of lightness and darkness?

"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 on 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."

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