Have you ever been struck by a light so bright that you simply couldn’t open your eyes? On the rare occasion I get out to see a movie in the middle of a day, I walk out of the dark theatre into that bright Texas sun and can hardly lift my eyelids. The sun appears to be brighter than anything I have encountered before. But in reality, the brightness of the sun hasn’t changed—it’s simply that I have been sitting in darkness for long enough that darkness has become normal to me.
When we embark upon the story of the New Testament, we must remember that God’s people had been waiting in silence for 400 years. They had adjusted to the darkness for long enough that it had become normal. So when the Son of God enters the story, His light overwhelms the darkness. We read in John 1:4-5 regarding Christ, “In him was life, and the life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.”
Epiphany is the season wherein the Church remembers and retells this story. The light of God in Jesus Christ cracks through the darkness of a broken world, the darkness of silent years and the darkness of unfulfilled longings. And while the Incarnation event is itself the first manifestation of this light, Jesus’ entire public ministry is a demonstration of the light of God in a dark world.
The light of God in Jesus Christ cracks through the darkness of a broken world, the darkness of silent years and the darkness of unfulfilled longings.
Jesus steps into the darkest places of the world and demonstrates that He is the proper Lord of all things. He enters the darkness of disease and brings healing. He enters the darkness of natural disaster and chaos and brings peace. He enters the darkness of shame and brings forgiveness.
In the very beginning, God showed Himself to be the only Lord of light and darkness (Gen. 1:3-4). Through the prophet Isaiah, the Lord says, “I form light and create darkness, I make well-being and create calamity, I am the LORD, who does all these things” (Isa. 45:7). He speaks to Job, asking the suffering and confused man, “Have you entered into the springs of the sea, or walked in the recesses of the deep? Have the gates of death been revealed to you, or have you seen the gates of deep darkness? Have you comprehended the expanse of the earth? Declare, if you know all this” (Job 38:16-18). Job hadn’t, but God has.
In the mind and history of Israel, there was no question of who had the keys to control light and darkness: It was Yahweh. So when Christ shows up, He is revealed as the Son of God by the ways light overcomes darkness around Him. The wise men find Jesus through the light of a star (Matt. 2:10-12), and the shepherds hear the good news of Christ from a host of angels breaking through the darkness (Luke 2:8-21).
These glimmers of God’s light in Jesus Christ are what break through the darkness of sin in our hearts to rescue us.
If you’re thinking, “Wow, I wish I could see this glorious light,” know that you have seen its glimmer and you will see its fullness. In 2 Corinthians 4:6, Paul says, “For God, who said, ‘Let light shine out of darkness,’ has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.” These glimmers of God’s light in Jesus Christ are what break through the darkness of sin in our hearts to rescue us. When God saves us, the spirit of darkness that covered our hearts and minds begins to roll back as the light of God in Jesus works within us.
And yet, we long for a deeper vision. We long to be caught up in the radiance of the light of God in Jesus. And we will. When we read of the new heaven and the new earth in Revelation 21-22, we find out that when God makes His dwelling place with man on earth, the heavenly city “has no need of sun or moon to shine on it, for the glory of God gives it light and its lamp is the Lamb. By its light will the nations walk, and the kings of the earth will bring their glory into it, and its gates will never be shut by day—and there will be no night there” (Rev. 21:23-25).
So, in this season of Epiphany, we remember and retell the story of the light of God breaking into the world through Jesus Christ. We celebrate the defeat of darkness and proclaim a day when the very presence of that which is dark will be overcome by the glorious light of God.
We look back and we look forward. For the light of God is in our midst, and yet, even the brightest moments are but glimmers of the coming glory. The light of God in our world may seem to fade, when darkness rears its head in death, disease and sin, but a day of “unfading brightness” is coming.