“Arise, shine for your light has come!” These are words we can pick straight off the page of our bibles on Christmas Day. After all the waiting and preparation and excited anticipation the day has dawned at last. Jesus, the Christ, the Light of the World, has come. Born in the manger, announced by angels, greeted by shepherds, worshipped by kings, God is with us. And we do shine – with smiles of joy and happiness as we celebrate this wonderful sacred day.
For Isaiah and his people it is actually the promise of restoration they are celebrating so joyfully. Their time of exile in Babylon is over, their sin has been paid for, their punishment is complete – and they are going home. God has come and saved them. However no-one will blame us for reading into these words the promise of the Messiah. After all, the God who did save, does save and will save. He is our light and salvation too.
I have been used to working with Luther’s translation of the Bible in recent years and in the German Methodist hymn book this text has been made into a round which is often sung at Advent; “Mache dich auf und werde Licht!”1 - “Arise, shine!” Somehow the German version seems less poetic but, at the same time it feels more urgent and challenging. “Your light has come to you, THEREFORE get up and be a light for others” is the sense of it. And the implication of that is more clearly spelled out 2 chapters earlier in Isaiah2 where we read: “ … loose the chains of injustice and untie the cords of the yoke .. set the oppressed free … share your food with the hungry … provide the poor wanderer with shelter … clothe the naked … “ THAT’S HOW you will be a light for others. That’s how you will turn their winter into Christmas.
Longing for light, we wait in darkness.
Longing for truth, we turn to you.
Make us your own, your holy people,
light for the world to see.
Christ be our light!
Shine in our hearts.
Shine through the darkness.
Christ be our light!
Shine in your church gathered today.3
1Gesangbuch der EmK 158 2Read Isaiah 58 v 6 -9 3Singing the Faith 706 (CCLI 199611)