The Book of Isaiah describes the glorious restoration of the people of Israel as the prophet cries out, “Arise, shine, you light has come, and the glory of the Lord has risen upon you.” Isaiah likely influenced the Gospel of Matthew (below) to describe a visit of the Wise Men to Jesus, because these verses mention gold, frankincense, and the wealth of foreign nations arriving by camel. The point? To hope in God’s favor to love and save his people.
Matthew’s Gospel contains the visit of the Wise Men (Magi), often enacted by children’s pageants this time of year. In telling this story (which very well may have historical roots – don’t misunderstand me), the gospel writer is claiming Jesus as the fulfillment of the words of the prophet Isaiah. God has come to shine with favor on his people, and the whole world is taking notice and paying homage. This was in fact happening in the time of Matthew’s gospel, as Christian faith was spreading to the east and west, north and south.
In the Letter to the Ephesians, Paul celebrates the great mystery of God’s plan to reveal his grace not only to the Jews, but to the Gentiles. Paul himself is an instrument of this work in which God’s light is spreading throughout the world as it comes to know the “boundless riches of Christ.”
Comment: A mother throws open the curtains, or flips the light switch, and calls out, “Rise and shine!” to a reluctant child who needs to get up and get going. In a very real way, Jesus is God’s “wake up call” to the entire world. On Epiphany we celebrate that the sound and light of that call has gone out into all the world, and that people in every corner of the earth respond to that light. One of the best and most helpful things I do every day is simply remember to look at Christ, to welcome the coming of his light to me and my world. He says, “Rise and shine!” and gives me the brightness of his own true light. Lord, help me to rise and shine with your light today!