Arise, shine, for your light has come, and the glory of the LORD has risen upon you. For behold, darkness shall cover the earth, and thick darkness the peoples; but the LORD will arise upon you, and his glory will be seen upon you. And nations shall come to your light, and kings to the brightness of your rising (Isaiah 60:1-3).
Thankfully, this year January 6 followed the first Tuesday of the month. Yesterday we elected a man to the Senate who as a pastor claims to speak for God, yet promotes the practice of killing children in the womb. Today we celebrate Epiphany, marking the revelation of Christ to the nations.
Over the last year I have been reading Fire Within by Thomas Dubay, S.M., a long reflection on the teachings about prayer of Teresa of Avila and John of the Cross. This morning I read the following:
While the saints are citizens of their times—what else could they be?—they have a knack for transcending the myopias and smallnesses of the concrete circumstances in which all of us live. They are always up-to-date because their vision and love are rooted in eternity.
I had to look up myopia. It can mean lack of vision, imagination, or foresight. It can also mean narrow-mindedness. It was a good January 6 corrective to the happenings of January 5.
Our problems are not small. That we would elect a pastor who promotes killing children to one of the highest offices in the land is evidence enough. Worse, doing so has become normal. After all, most members of the Senate think the same way. A darkness increasingly covers our land.
But the world is no darker now than it was in Jesus’ time. In fact, the cardinal text of Epiphany—the visit of the Magi to the infant Jesus—records how these kings had to deceive Herod, who in his effort to kill Jesus and protect his own throne, would mandate the killing of all infant boys. This is the world into which Jesus was born. This is the world he came to save.
The image of Epiphany is light in darkness. Which means Epiphany is a matter of vision, for that is what light gives us. The church walks by faith, not by sight. We trust not in earthly rulers—not presidents, not senators, not judges. We refuse to get discouraged because the arm of man appears strong. We insist that our vision embrace what we cannot see; even at the horizon of death we look further to the horizon of eternity. And we remember that in Christ alone is our hope. For in the end, the problem at the root of all our problems, abortion included, is sin. And politicians cannot touch that. Only God in Christ can.
Jesus, who said “I am the light of the world,” also said to the church, “You are the light of the world.” We are people who hope in Christ, and who by that very hope shine in darkness. We should be thankful for those who fight politically for vulnerable children and their mothers. And we should not forget the real work, which is prayer, practical generosity, and faith in the God who sent us Jesus—who is, now and always, light in a dark world.
In the end, like all the saints who have gone before us, we are citizens of our time. What else can we be? The call of the church is to transcend the “myopias and smallnesses” of our present circumstances. Christ reigns, and one day he will restore all things to the way they should be. Our task, as we carry out our concrete daily callings, is to remember that.
Rev. Dr. W. Ross Blackburn, who writes A Pastor’s Reflections for the Human Life Review’s website, has been Rector of Christ the King, an Anglican Church in Boone, North Carolina, since 2004.