(Odetta Holmes was a civil and human rights activist who was also a singer, actress, and songwriter and who Martin Luther King, Jr. in 1961, called “The Queen of American Folk Music.”)
This simple and beautiful gospel song came to be an anthem of the civil rights movement in the 1950’s and 60’s. Written by Harry Dixon Loes around 1920 as a children’s song, it was adapted by Zilphia Horton and taught to Pete Seeger. The song is famously tied to Fannie Lou Harner, a civil rights leader. She sang this song while being detained by police on her way back from attempting to register to vote.
In the dark times of injustice and grief, we give thanks for the light bearers, those who shine light in the dark places with their courage, their compassion, and their love. We are bathed in the light of their presence, buoyed up and inspired to live and share light with others.
As we move into the routine of January, after all the sparkle and festivity of the Christmas season (which doesn’t end until January 5), it can be a bit of a letdown. The early sunsets, the cool, and sometimes dreary weather doesn’t help, darkness can loom, literally and figuratively. But then comes the season of Epiphany where we are called to notice and look for light! We remember the Magi that were lead to Jesus by the light of the bright star, we remember the Light that shines in every darkness and we remember Christ’s call for us to “let your light shine before others” (Matthew 5:15).
What better way to embrace a time of the year that is known for shorter days and longer nights but to intentionally and prayerfully look for the shining moments, the glimmers of light that inspire and encourage, and to be that light for others. My Dad loved the following Celtic blessing and would share it with us growing up:
May the blessing of light be on you – light without and light within.
May the blessed sunlight shine on you like a great peat fire,
so that stranger and friend may come and warm him/herself at it.
And may light shine out of the two eyes of you,
like a candle set in the window of a house,
bidding the wanderer come in out of the storm.
I wonder who you have noticed sharing the light, letting their light shine?
I wonder when and where you feel your light shining the brightest?
This season of Epiphany we are inviting people to share shining moments to bring hope, to inspire and to notice the light that surrounds us and that is within us. We are challenging folks to take note of a shining moment each and every day. Share them below, send them to the church office post them on our facebook page, let’s bathe this season in light and hope!
I will close here leaving you with some of the words from Linnea Good’s beautiful hymn, “A Light is Gleaming.”
And Jesus showed us a brighter path to walk.
He showed us things we hadn’t seen.
Now we, like Jesus, can help creation shine, and this will be the sign:
A light is gleaming, spreading its arm through out the night, living in the light.
Come share its gladness, God’s radiant love is burning bright, living in the light.
So let us live in the brightness God has giv’n,
And let us rise to see the dawn.
We trust that God is here a sparkle and a blaze, warming all our days.
May we each live in the light and let our light shine!