In one of the first Epiphany sermons I preached (more than 30 years ago!) I spoke of a pattern my Aunt had on her loom. It was called “summer-winter” weave. The finished cloth is reversible and has the same design on both sides, except where it is dark in colour on one side, it is light on the other.
She explained the pattern took its name from the practice showing the dark side of the woven runner or blanket in winter and the light side for summer use.
It seemed to my young self to be a perfect illustration of how there is both a light and dark side to the Epiphany story. I wove the details back and forth naming the tyrants of bitterness, insecurity, distrust and perfectionism that rule like Herod in our lives. I suggested we could bring them to the Light. I also said we would seek the light even when darkness surrounded us.
I proclaimed “the pattern of light and dark – of faithfulness and disobedience – is woven into our lives every day. There will always be darkness. There is always a Herod. But the darkness can never conquer the light. Always there is a King who draws us to the light and leads us to new life if we allow it and draw on the grace He offers.”
I admire the clarity and certainty of my young preacher-self. I was sure of the unwelcome presence of darkness woven into life but equally confident you could simply turn it over and bring back the Light side.
Today I am less judgmental about light and darkness. I have long discovered that darkness is not an interruption in my life. Yes, it is sometimes every bit the light-denying tyrant I knew it to be in my early days of finding myself. It is sometimes the light-less barricaded space of my own making.
More often darkness is an invitation. More often darkness draws me closer to the Divine. Most often it welcomes me home. It is the fierce cloud of Unknowing. It is the terrifying riptide of Becoming. It is the wrenching crack where I am not sure if I am letting the light in or the darkness out. Perhaps it doesn’t matter.
Darkness is also the Gentle Enfolding. Darkness is a kindly cloak of healing. It is the harbouring womb. It is night vision.
The dark-light weave of the summer-winter pattern doesn’t illustrate Epiphany for me now. Our spiritual journeys are not made by simple either/or choices.
The darkness is as much a compelling guide as the light; the immense shadowed sky as gracious as the wild star piercing it. Darkness and light are soul friends in our journeys.
Epiphany has always been a dear friend in the circle of the church year. I welcome the light, the revelation, the manifest awe and aha. And I welcome the rest of the story: setting out under a dark sky, the long journey, the misdirection, the fore-shadowed gifts, the ever-changing plans, the flight into the unknown. They are part of the whole story. They make us who we are and are part of the Divine Desire.