On Epiphany, the feast celebrating the coming of the Magi to Jesus, I was reading the Old Testament passage set for that day, Isaiah 60:1-6. It struck me how relevant it was for today. [Bear in mind these are only personal reflections on this passage in the light of today; I am not an expert in Biblical studies!] It talks of darkness and gloom covering the earth; and this is a difficult winter, with increasing cases of Covid 19, another national lockdown … and, at least where I am, the weather has been fairly gloomy too. So that kind of hit me, and the preceding verse, which talks of light coming therefore struck me more. Yes, there is hope where we are: spring will come, bringing (hopefully) better weather; the vaccine looks like it will provide us with a route out of the pandemic. But that is not where our hope lies.
It is God’s light which is coming, the splendour of our Lord shining upon us; and not in a few months time, but now. It is this that we celebrate every Christmas and Epiphany tide. The Light of the world has come among us, not just as a tiny child (which it is easy to get over-sentimental about), but as a human being, born as we were, dying as we shall (although for most of us, in a very different manner).
We can talk of the vaccine bringing hope; we can look forward to a time when we can meet up and hug our loved ones (see v4). But that is not the light that we look towards, it is not the hope on which we depend. That is our Lord, Jesus, who has lived among us, who knows our pains and our joys, who has sent the Spirit into our world, so that we are not left comfortless, but know the closeness, the amazingness, of the love of God.
Of course, that doesn’t mean we have to feel happy all the time, or that we must feel guilty if we struggle during this pandemic, or that we can ignore our mental, physical and emotional health. We are human, as all those around us are human, and we will feel both happy and sad; we may well find this winter difficult, and pin our hopes on the vaccine; we would do well to avail ourselves of the various suggestions around at the moment to help us keep healthy; and if we need to shield, or self-isolate, or take the advice of professionals, we should do this.
But read the first few verses of Isaiah 60. Get up, remember: our hope and our light is Jesus; the child who is coming to us afresh this year; the man who lived, worked and died among us; our God, who may well be all-powerful and all-mighty, but is always all-loving. Who is Emmanuel, God-with-us, who is with us in our world at all times; Who is with us - you - now.