The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who lived in a land of deep darkness on them light has shined.
You have multiplied the nation, you have increased its joy; they rejoice before you as with joy at the harvest, as people exult when dividing plunder.
For the yoke of their burden, and the bar across their shoulders, the rod of their oppressor, you have broken as on the day of Midian.
Isaiah 9:2-4; from Isaiah 9:1-4, lectionary text for Sunday January 26, 2020
The days I teach, I set off for work in the dark, and by the time I arrive it is day. Driving through earth’s quotidian turning is one of the consolations of having to wake so early. How does the light come? I close my eyes and try to see it on the insides of my eyelids.
How the light comes. First the sky begins to glow. Night’s midnight blue takes on a suffused purply hue then softens to lighter shade. When the sky is clear, light’s coming shows as a nuanced series of variations as the sky shades from mystic violet to indigo to chambray, each shift so fine that I realize the series only when I recognize the sum of them: Oh, the sky is blue. It is different when there are clouds. The sun begins to light them even before it has risen above the horizon. Still itself unseen, the sun tints the clouds raspberry and coral and peach and lemon. The clouds catch fire, flare with amazing colors, become the sun’s heralds, proclaim coming.
‘The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light.’
It is the clouds that make light’s coming so wonderful, that blare it with such fanfare. Yet they proclaim not just light but storm. ‘Red sky in morning, sailors take warning.’
‘For the yoke of their burden and the bar across their shoulders, the rod of their oppressor, you have broken as on the day of Midian.’ This is a battle image. Gideon and his 300 and the LORD’s triumph of blaring trumpets and flaring torches and shouts and clamor. [Judges 7] It is not a peaceful dawning but victory sounding. God breaking apart the enemy — loudly, violently, irrefutably.
I’m not sure I like that part. In my mind’s eye I was watching for the light. Now suddenly I’m waiting for a storm, listening for the wind to rise, to hear trees creak loudly as they sway, and to wonder what will happen if one comes crashing down.
I have walked in darkness. I pray for light. For the bars that weight shoulders to be lifted away, rods wielded by oppressors to be broken. But I am aware that privileges of my life burden others, and structures that sustain me oppress others. The rod broken by the LORD may be to me both freeing and jarring. (What did Israel do once fear of Midian no longer united them? Was the rejoiced-over spoil enough to divide or did the plunder cause new division?).
I have walked in darkness. I pray for light. Light to break the dark and light to show the brokenness in the day. Light enough to see by and light enough to have my sight transformed so that I can rejoice and not resent, can greet it with without fear but with exultant joy.
I pray, LORD, that I may pray for light. I pray, LORD, that I may welcome it as it comes.