Nations shall come to your light, and kings to the brightness of your rising. (Isaiah 60:3)
Picture an apple seed planted in the dark, cold ground—seemingly dead. At the right moment, however, nourished by the sun and rain, it bursts forth into the light of day. As the seed grows and matures into a tree, it delights our senses with the beauty of its branches, the fragrance of its blossoms, the taste of its fruit, the shade of its leaves.
So it was for Jerusalem at the time of this prophecy. The holy city had been destroyed by Nebuchadnezzar’s army; it lay in ruins during the long years of the Babylonian exile. Yet in the midst of this darkness, Yahweh spoke prophetically about what he would do: make Jerusalem a light that would attract the Gentiles to God.
In a similar way, Jesus’ birth was the dawn of a glorious light, yet as an infant he did not look all that powerful or resplendent. He was born in the darkness of a stable without any fanfare. Only a few recognized him. Among these "few" were the wise men who were led to Jesus by God’s revelation. These emissaries from the East stand in Scripture as representatives of the "nations" who would at last come to the light of God.
"Epiphany" is a Greek word meaning "manifestation." What was manifested or made clear to the wise men who came from the East to worship the Jewish Messiah? They knew that they were somehow included in the promise of this one who was "born king of the Jews" (Matthew 2:2). These wise men were Gentile, not Jewish. They were the first fulfillment of what was proclaimed in the letter to the Ephesians: With the coming of Jesus, the Jewish Messiah, God was inviting the Gentiles to be part of his people (Ephesians 3:5-6).
Today, this prophecy from the Book of Isaiah continues to realize its fulfillment as the Church is called to "arise" and "shine" (Isaiah 60:1), drawing everyone from all nations to Christ. Yet even in her current state, the Church is only a shadow of what God has in store for her! Even the most glorious aspects of the Church are dark compared with the light that will shine upon it when Jesus returns to take his Church—all his people—into his kingdom.
God wants to save all his people and bring them into his body, the Church. Intercede on behalf of Church leaders and for all members of the Church, that they would be inspired to commit themselves to the work of building the kingdom. For your own parish, pray that the seed of God’s grace, planted in each of us, would blossom into his perfect plan for the Church, so that as we reflect this plan more fully each day, his glory would shine to all nations.
Pray, too, for the Church, asking the Spirit that the light of God’s glory would shine through the people of God and reflect Christ to all the earth. Let us pray that we will welcome Christ into our hearts every day, allowing his light to penetrate us and conquer any darkness within us. Both as individuals and as members of the Church, we can reflect the glory of God in our lives.
nd spend some time this week considering: just as God drew the Magi to his Son with a compelling sign, a brilliant new star in the night sky, so he does in our lives, too. What compelling signs has God used to draw you closer to him? Finally, the Magi recognized Jesus, the Son of God, as a small baby in a humble setting. Try to recall a specific situation in which you recognized the presence of Jesus and what was it that made you "see" Christ. Thinking on such events and signs encourages us to see and expect and reflect more of Jesus in the world around us.