December 6, 2021
"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."
I attended the Episcopal church when I was growing up. During Advent, we never would sing any Christmas carols in church except for the third Sunday of Advent. And even then, the songs we sang were reflective and not joyous. One of my favorite Christmas hymns that we have sung at Westminster over the years is entitled, Arise Your Light Has Come. The song starts out softly in a contemplative tone. But as the song goes on and describes the incredible gift that God has given to us, it crescendos to a joyous reflection of God’s love and glorious celebration of God’s gift and grace to us. The expectant joy is part the celebration of our savior coming in a manger to dwell with us. But its also the even more glorious celebration of who the Lord is and what he has done.
When the light comes, we must arise and shine. This light is no ordinary light but the glory of the Lord, probably much like the dazzling light the disciples saw at Jesus’s transfiguration.
The verses seem to be reminding and assuring Isaiah and the people he was writing to, that God has not forgotten us and that He is coming. And the verse “darkness shall cover the earth” sure sounds a lot like Good Friday! You also hear this assurance in the first couple of stanzas of the afore-mentioned hymn - “Wake awake for night is flying, the watch men on the heights are crying. Awake Jerusalem at last. Midnight hears the welcome voices and at the thrilling cry rejoices. Come forth you Maidens for night has passed. The Bridegroom comes awake. Prepare yourselves to meet the Lord whose light has stirred the waiting guard.”
And the song then moves to the incredible Glory of God and the joy that we now have because of Jesus’ birth, life, death and resurrection. “For the Lord comes down all glorious. The strong in grace and truth victorious. Her star is risen, her light is come. Oh come you blessed one. Lord Jesus God’s own son. Sing hosanna. We go until the halls we view where you have bid us dine with you. Now Let all the heavens adore you, and saints and angels sing before you. We gather around your dazzling light. No eye has seen nor ear has yet been trained to hear. What joy is ours! Crescendos rise, your halls resound Hosannas blend in cosmic sound. Arise oh Jerusalem! Arise clothed in light! Your light has come, and the glory of God upon your hearts will shine. Alleluia!”
May each of us find joy in remembering what God has already done by giving us His Light, even in this season of waiting we have been in. (I encourage you to listen to the hymn below)
We thank you that throughout the Old and New Testament, you reminded your people and continue to do that today, that your Light has come. May we always remember What Joy is Ours as we see you clothed in light.