Leaving the light of Epiphany behind and making our way to Lent

Let there be Light!

By the Rev. Nicholas Beasley

When I settled into my new office at St. John’s, I was impressed by the heavy wooden interior shutters that cover the large windows and exterior door. Yet they also seemed to darken the room more than I might like. Soon I realized that the shutters were necessary to create any privacy for conversation, given the windows’ generous size. A tearful or confessional visitor to my office needs a little bit of a screen for sharing. Moreover, the intensity of the summer sun makes the shutters a welcome addition. I can put them in the slanted up or down position to moderate the intensity of the rays, depending on the time of day. Writing in the waning days of January, however, they are mostly open, some propped all the way back on their hinges. We have had our share of gray days lately, and I welcome every ray of sun I can lure in to my working spot. Cool winter days render the sun a friend, in a way that he does not seem to be in July, when shade is ever on my mind. I’m glad for the light that shines through the slats of my shutters in January.

This message will reach you in the waning days of Epiphany, the great season of light in Christian consciousness. Light, as Fr. Will Brown reminded us, is the first creation of God, the necessary thing by which he could regard his creation as he fashioned it, as you would welcome a headlamp when pitching a tent in darkness or changing a tire at night. We confess that a new light has come into the world in Christ, a light that shines on all people and lets us see all things anew. As we hunger for light-filled rooms and sunny days in winter, we yearn for divine light to see the world as it is being made new in Christ. Our deepest desire is for a world set free from the opacity of sin and ignorance of God, a world resplendent with relationships of love, peace, and justice, made in Christ.

And so we have sung of light and prayed of light since Christmas, when the evangelist John proclaimed Christ, calling him “the true light, which enlightens everyone” (John 1:9) We’ve heard of the star and the Magi, of enlightened Gentiles, of disciples called in the bright light of day, to carry the news of Christ wherever the sun shines. Divine light shines all around us. It always does; we just speak of it in Biblical terms in the Epiphany season. The light God has sent into the world unites us as we are bathed in it, as we see each other in it, and it pervades the creation, finding its every nook and cranny.

Arriving at the Bible’s end, we hear John the Revelator narrate his vision of a new Jerusalem: “I saw no temple in the city, for its temple is the Lord God the Almighty and the Lamb. And the city has no need of sun or moon to shine on it, for the glory of God is its light, and its lamp is the Lamb. The nations will walk by its light, and the kings of the earth will bring their glory into it” (Revelation 21:22-24). The Bible begins with “Let there be light!” and concludes with a new creation in which the unmediated presence of God illuminates all things.

We live in the meantime between those two acts of creation, between the first created light of Genesis and the great eternal day when all will be brightened by the uncreated light of God’s burning holiness. In that meantime, we bear the light of Christ, having received it chiefly in order to share it. Before we leave the light of Epiphany behind and make our way into Lent, open the blinds and shutters of your life and be blessed by the light of Christ, that it may shine through you.

+Nicholas