Turn On the Light: Spiritual References

(1) “Happy and helpless / At the same time” verbalizes what it may have felt like, humanly, for Jesus to be baptized and to receive being beloved. Then, by extension, it becomes what it could feel like for us to be baptized, to remember our baptism, and to receive being beloved.

(2) “Held in the water / Yours truly I’m” is a reference to the physical act of baptism. On the second Sunday of Epiphany, we read that when John dips Jesus in the waters, the skies open up, a dove descends, and a voice declares, “This is my Own, my Beloved” (Matthew 3:17).  In the water, Jesus experiences the truth of being God’s own.  Likewise, when we are drenched in the waters of baptism, we claim our name as beloved and God’s own dear child.

(3) “Fatten the moon, add sparkle to night / Show me the star” is a reference to the astrologers from the East (Matthew 2:1-12). On the first Sunday of Epiphany, we read about the astrologers searching the sky for luminous sparkle, for something that will guide, change and heal their life. They found this in a star that directed them to Jesus. Likewise, we too encounter glimmers that guide our way. In the Epiphany Journal, we reflected on these glimmers through the question: “Where are three things that taught you to see from a new perspective?” This song prays for even more luminosity: “Fatten the moon, add sparkle to night / Show me the star.”

(4) “And turn soreness to sight” is an inversion of the expression “a sight for sore eyes.” The star is a beacon of Christ, but the star itself can symbolize Christ, the Morning Star. “They will look upon his face, and his name will be on their foreheads. Night will be no more, nor will they need light from lamp or sun, for the Lord God shall give them light” (Revelation 22:4-5). As the star pointed to the first coming of Christ at the birth of Jesus, so the showing of the star foreshadows the final coming of Christ and the taking up of all creation into God. Until that time, we look with hope to the Morning Star, whose light imparts hope, vision, and even healing. Seeing the star gives us everything and changes everything for us.

(5) “They call you bridegroom / You call me bride”: the metaphor is biblical. In the Gospel of John, John the Baptist calls Jesus Christ the bridegroom who has attained the bride (3:29). In the Johannine community, the bride is a symbol for the Church, the New Jerusalem. “The Spirit and the bride say, ‘Come.’ Let the hearer say, ‘Come.’ Let the one who thirsts come forward, and the one who wants it receive the gift of life-giving water” (Revelation 22:17). The nuptial metaphor is a symbol for the union of God with all people through the love of Jesus Christ for us. But even the symbol of marriage cannot fully describe the mystery of God’s radical inclusion and union-making with us. Thus the lyric “What does it matter / With love so wide.”

In addition, the Gospel of Mark relates the parable of the bridesmaids who await the bridegroom with oil lamps lit. Their readiness to meet the bridegroom is a call to join the heavenly banquet that represents God’s commonwealth of love. This brings us back to the refrain: “Wake me up! Turn on the light.”

(6) “How did your hand / Heal the wound I had inside” is an allusion to the healing work of Jesus. On the the fourth Sunday of Epiphany, we read how “people suffering from illnesses and painful ailments of all kinds … were brought to Jesus, and he healed them” (Matthew 4:24). These lines bring us back to the question in the Epiphany Journal: “What gave you healing?” Or put another way, what has helped to heal the wound you have inside?

(7) “Tears at your table / I hungered, thirsted, pined.” Recall the question in the Epiphany Journal: “Where do you long for change?” Think of the way you felt when you asked God to change your life. What emotions did you experience? In his spiritual autobiography, the Confessions, St. Augustine of Hippo writes of his tearful conversion to life in God: “I have tasted you, now I hunger and thirst for more. You touched me, and I burned for your peace.” The more we know God, the more we want God in our lives. As Christians we open ourselves to union with God when we celebrate Communion. At the Communion table our tears are transformed into joy, and our hungers are both heightened and satisfied.

(8) “They poured the water / You served the wine.” In the Gospel of John, the first sign of Jesus’ divine power is seen at the wedding at Cana. When the wine runs out, Jesus commands the servants to fill the jars with water. When they draw out the water, it has been changed into the finest of wines. This miracle is a prefiguration of Communion, God’s gift of love made manifest through Jesus’ sharing of the bread and wine at his last meal with the disciples. A loving sign from God that change is possible; that all our hopes for healing transformation can be fulfilled.

(9) “Now I don’t care if nothing is mine” refers to the disciples’ response to the call of Jesus: they left everything immediately and followed him (see the Gospel of Matthew). They trusted that with Jesus at their side, God would provide for the needs of the body, soul, and spirit. Imagine saying to Jesus, “Now I don’t care if nothing is mine. I’m ready to give everything to God.”

Turn On the Light

Happy and helpless
At the same time (1)
Held in the water
Yours truly I’m (2)
Now at any hour
You make my brain to chime—
Wake me up! Turn on the light

Turn on the light, turn on the light
Fatten the moon, add sparkle to night
Show me the star (3)
And turn soreness to sight (4)
Wake me up! Turn on the light

They call you bridegroom
You call me bride
What does it matter
With love so wide (5)
How did your hand
Heal the wound I had inside (6)
Wake me up! Turn on the light

Turn on the light, turn on the light
Fatten the moon, add sparkle to night
Show me the star
And turn soreness to sight
Wake me up! Turn on the light

Tears at your table
I hungered, thirsted, pined (7)
They poured the water
You served me wine (8)
Now I don’t care if nothing is mine (9)
Wake me up! Turn on the light

Turn on the light, turn on the light
Fatten the moon, add sparkle to night
Show me the star
And turn soreness to sight
Wake me up! Turn on the light.

Words: Bro. Anthony Zuba, February 2020
Tune: “I Saw the Light” (Hank Williams Sr., 1948)

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