by Tom Eggebrecht
Just recently, our nearly-three-year-old grandson has become scared of the dark.
Up to this point, he would go to bed every evening with nary a problem at all. He had no fear of his dark bedroom. Now he needs some reassurance, a night light and maybe an extra stuffed animal or two. Child development specialists say that three years old is just about the time children begin to expand their imaginations and develop more fears. It’s kind of sad that in this fallen world fear has to be part of the developmental process of human beings.
I know how he feels. I’m not necessarily afraid of the dark. But I don’t like it very much. One of my least favorite days of the year is when we have to turn our clocks back. Night comes sooner. Days get shorter. I long for the late days of December when we begin to turn back toward the light.
Lo and behold, it’s now that time when we celebrate the twelve days of Christmas and the Feast of the Epiphany. In his book, Gathered Guests, Timothy Maschke writes that “Epiphany is one of the oldest seasons in the Christian church year, second only to the Easter season. This Season of Lights emphasizes Jesus’ manifestation (The Greek word is epiphany) as God and man. The earliest Christians called the festival of the Epiphany the Theophany (revelation of God).”
Did you notice that Maschke calls it the “Season of Lights”? Just as our days begin to turn brighter, the church calendar gives us a season filled with light. Later in his book Maschke notes that “during the season of Epiphany, many of the Gospel readings focus on Jesus’ miracles. Each Sunday offers a greater manifestation (the meaning of epiphany) of Jesus as God’s only-begotten Son.” Light breaks into this dark world as the miracles of Jesus reveal our great hope, that God has come to rescue His people.
I recently saw a video of a woman who recounted her dark story involving drugs, an abusive husband and a life that was wasting away. One night, in desperation, she called the phone number of a Christian counselor. Her mother had given her the number months before. She was near rock bottom and had to do something about it. So, she made the call in the middle of the night. A man answered and listened to all of her troubles, supported her and encouraged her. It wasn’t until the end of the call that she discovered she had called the wrong number. The man wasn’t a Christian counselor at all.
But he gave her what she needed precisely at that moment. She didn’t miraculously turn her life around that day. But little by little she came out of the darkness and into the light of a new life. She ended her talk by saying, “This is what I know: In the deepest, blackest night of despair and anxiety, it only takes a pinhole of light and all of grace can come in.”
In a world where fear is part of the human equation, Jesus comes to bring His miraculous light. He gives us what we need precisely when we need it. And what more do we need than the forgiveness of sins? The psalms remind us that His word is a lamp to our feet and a light to our path. As dark days become brighter, Epiphany delivers us the Jesus who Himself is the Light of the World. His sacraments are little pinholes of light where all of His grace floods into our sinful, dark and weary souls.
At Epiphany the words of the angel are still ringing in our ears: “Fear not!” Out of the darkness our God calls to us with a certain word of hope: “Arise, shine, for your light has come, and the glory of the Lord rises upon you” (Isaiah 60:1).
Tom Eggebrecht is a child of the Light and Lutheran Church Extension Fund Vice President of Ministry Support. He and his wife, Tammy, live in Winter Springs, Florida. Follow Tom’s personal blog at www.tomeggebrecht.com.