We celebrate Christ’s birth around the winter solstice when the sun is at its lowest point in the winter sky. On the Sunday of Epiphany, we light all the Advent candles to celebrate the light that Christ brought into the world. The book of Isaiah uses images of a thick darkness that covers the earth (Isaiah 60:1-3). God’s light penetrates and shines into this darkness and all people stream to the brightness of this rising light.
As I was working on this blog post in my church study last week I was reminded that some of the brightest days of the year are actually in the dead of winter. It was a cold day. Yet the bright winter sun, low in the sky, reflected off the white snow and filled the whole room with light. I had a gorgeous view of the snow-covered trees in our woods.
The Apostle Paul brings yet another twist to our understanding of this light streaming from God, the creator of the whole universe. It has both cosmic and deeply personal dimensions (Ephesians 3:7-10). Paul talks about it in relation to the ancient cosmology of seven different heavenly spheres above the earth. Each sphere was believed to be populated by different heavenly beings such as angels. What God did in Christ, and the way this is lived out in the fellowship of the followers of Jesus, is a witness not only to our neighbors but to the whole cosmos. What does a Christian fellowship—indeed a whole cosmos—redeemed and recreated by God’s power and grace look like?
Paul is thrilled that he—the very least of the saints—has been given the privilege to share the good news of the riches of Christ not only to his fellow Jews but to all people. He talks about the transformation demonstrated by Jesus the Christ as the wisdom of God in its rich variety. No container is big enough to hold all of it!
My good friend Denny Weaver recently wrote a book called The Nonviolent God. Denny’s basic premise is that if we believe Jesus is our most complete revelation of God then we also need to believe that Jesus’ nonviolent and suffering love embodies the very nature of God. This becomes heady stuff when we begin applying it to the fellowship in our congregations. From here it ripples out to our family life, to our places of work, to our community, to our care for creation, to our nation, and to the global community. Paul doesn’t even stop there and includes the whole cosmos. This is what we’re part of as God’s people and followers of Jesus.