Monday, December 19, 2016

Light Dawns

Today's reflection on the Daily Texts:

Light dawns for the righteous, and joy for the upright in heart. - Psalm 97:11

When they saw the star, they rejoiced with exceedingly great joy. - Matthew 2:10 (NKJV)

Two-year reading texts: Psalm 145:1-7; 2 Kings 17:7-41; Acts 5:12-16

Light is a common theme in scripture representing God's presence, guidance, goodness, grace, and hope. In today's verses, there's an additional element of readiness and awareness of God's light. Are we expecting the light to come? Do we know what it will look like? Are we watching and waiting for it? And there's an element of time passing and a story unfolding as the light becomes fully visible. At sunrise, we can see the first light of the sun long before it officially dawns on the horizon. And the visibility of a star depends on how much other light is around, the position of the viewer, and other factors.

The obvious connection, in this Advent season, is the coming of Christ. The Messiah is expected - but in very different ways by different people. While people close to the history of Israel had no clue about Jesus' birth, foreign stargazers from far away saw something worth traveling hundreds of miles for. In the context of the psalm, God's coming means joy for those who are aligned with God, but something else - fear? dread? defeat? - for people who look elsewhere for their highest good.

Today, my own thoughts turn again to our national political situation. Today the electors of the Electoral College cast their official votes, confirming that Donald Trump will be our next president. There are some who see this turn of events as light and hope - a chance for change from a political system that has been broken for a long time, or new energy put into conservative economic policies they think will benefit the country, or even a white nationalist hope where "light" connects to a preferred skin color. There are others, like me, who see Trump's election as a turn into darkness, fearing that the appeal of his campaign has been to division and discrimination and disagreement.

Time will tell which "side" has the more accurate take on Trump's prospects for America and the world. I'm reminded again of the long parade of kings of Israel and Judah, some judged good and others judged bad or evil by later writers of the Bible. At the current stage being retold in 2 Kings 17, the shortcomings and convenient alliances of the northern kingdom have run their course and taken their toll, and the northern tribes have fallen, never to be seen again. The southern kingdom stays in place, though weakened, and will have its own up-and-down history for hundreds of years before becoming the place where the Messiah is finally born. The little community that springs up in his name, of which we still hear the beginnings in Acts 5, is built instead around mutual love and care, truth-telling, sacrificial giving, acts of mercy and healing, and a sense that the blessings of God are for everyone. At a time of darkness and difficulty, Jesus' young church begins to bring light in a growing sphere of illumination.

Whether I'm right or wrong about Donald Trump, I find encouragement in today's scriptures. Jesus is Lord. God is in charge. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it. God's light dawns despite anything worldly darkness can do, and in it we can find joy. May we do our best to be faithful, and righteous, true and focused on the light of Christ.

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