When Jesus heard that John had been put in prison, he withdrew to Galilee. Leaving Nazareth, he went and lived in Capernaum, which was by the lake in the area of Zebulun and Naphtali— to fulfill what was said through the prophet Isaiah:
“Land of Zebulun and land of Naphtali, the Way of the Sea, beyond the Jordan, Galilee of the Gentiles— the people living in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of the shadow of death a light has dawned.”
From that time on Jesus began to preach, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near.”
Nevertheless, there will be no more gloom for those who were in distress. In the past he humbled the land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali, but in the future he will honour Galilee of the nations, by the Way of the Sea, beyond the Jordan—
The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of deep darkness a light has dawned.
You have enlarged the nation and increased their joy; they rejoice before you as people rejoice at the harvest, as warriors rejoice when dividing the plunder.
“You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.”
Firstly today, we continue our theme of God choosing the small and insignificant to make Himself known. The Isaiah passage says that God had humbled the lands of Zebulun and Naphtali in the past, but that Galilee would be honoured in the future. Jerusalem is God’s holy city and Bethlehem is the City of David, but the place Jesus chooses for his ministry is Capernaum.
I don’t know if you’ve heard of the book and website ‘Crap Towns‘? I think only in Britain would a book like this become so popular that they had to bring out a second copy to include even more towns left out of the first! Well, at the risk of being a bit irreverent, I think Capernaum would have probably been in that book! It’s as if Jesus, instead of choosing London or Birmingham to exercise his most important ministry and begin to preach ‘repent, for the Kingdom of God is near’, he picked somewhere like Grimsby!
Secondly, the clearest theme of today’s readings is that of light.
Stop for a moment and think of as many qualities of light as you can.
One quality that I thought of was this- light is very attractive – “it’s so beautiful!!” On Friday, on my way to work I was overwhelmed by the beauty of the sunlight – it was completely golden and made everything glow and the snow sparkle. It was incredible. I was really frustrated when I went into work and said to people “It’s so beautiful out there!” and the response was “but it’s really cold!” and on Facebook (where I’d also made the comment) a friend said “careful, it’s really icy!” I knew it was cold and icy but for me on Friday morning, the beauty of the light overwhelmed all that!
I think it’s relatively easy to imagine Jesus being the Light of the World. What’s harder, is understanding that that is what Jesus calls us! He doesn’t say ‘try and be light in the world’, He says ‘you are the light of the world’! We ARE light, whether we like it or not!
How can you manifest some of the qualities of light this advent season?
Because I’ve been a bit irreverent today, I want to leave you with something a bit more uplifting. This is Eric Whitacre’s ‘Virtual Choir’. He posted a video of himself conducting his own composition ‘Lux Aurumque’ on YouTube along with the sheet music. People from around the world recorded themselves singing the different parts, sent them to him and this is the outcome.
The words are:
Latin Translation ©2001 by Charles Anthony Silvestri
(English poem by Edward Esch)
CALIDA GRAVISQUE warm and heavy
PURA VELUT AURUM as pure gold,
ET CANUNT ANGELI and the angels sing softly
MOLLITER MODO NATUM. to the newborn babe.