From darkness into light

December 2, 2011

Louisville

One of my most cherished memories of church may, in all honesty, be something I never myself experienced – but I heard about it so vividly from my parents that I can easily imagine being there:

It is a few minutes before 11 p.m. on Christmas Eve at Trinity Lutheran Church in Lancaster, Pa. The choir is grouped back in the church narthex. The church lights are dimmed; the sanctuary is shrouded in darkness.

At precisely 11 p.m., the choir launches into Bach’s “Break Forth, O Beauteous Heavenly Light” and the church is illuminated with light. Advent is over; Christmas has arrived. The darkness is gone, replaced by the Light of the world, breaking into history to bring good news of redemption and grace. 

In a column in the November 29, 2011, issue of Christian Century, Barbara Brown Taylor reminds us that God is present in darkness just as surely as God is present in light. “Darkness does not come from a different place than light; it is not presided over by a different God.”

We are a people who have all walked, and continue to walk, in darkness. We walk in darkness as we seek to find a way to proclaim the gospel with relevancy in a 21st-century multicultural society. We walk in darkness as we try to reconcile differences among ourselves that sometimes seem overwhelming. We walk in darkness as we struggle with our inadequacies, our failures, and our personal demons.

To come from darkness into light is, on some sensory level, to experience what God’s breaking through into the world – the Incarnation – means.

As we walk through darkness, at some point – maybe at 11 p.m. on Christmas Eve, or maybe during a General Assembly plenary session – Christ breaks through. And we who have walked in darkness will see a great light.

Break forth, O beauteous heavenly light
And usher in the morning.
Ye shepherds, shrink not with affright
But hear the angel’s warning.
This child, now weak in infancy,
Our confidence and joy shall be,
The power of Satan breaking,
Our peace eternal making
.

Read the column in Korean. (PDF)

  1. I so enjoyed your reflection on those Christmas Eves long ago, Cindy. There's another inspirational tale of Christmas Eve in the current issue of North Carolina's "Our State" magazine concerning a little Presbyterian church and a very nice tradition. http://www.ourstate.com/warsaw-presbyterian-church

    by J. Heckerman

    December 6, 2011

  2. Post Tenebras, Lux! Motto of the Reformation: After the darkness, Light! Thank you, Cynthia.

    by RFev. Fran Beyea, Ames, IA.

    December 2, 2011

  3. Thank you Cindy. I hear the gospel in what you have described - the incarnation is light breaking into our darkness.

    by Roy Howard

    December 2, 2011

  4. Thank you for your column, Cindy. I love BBT's explanation of how darkness is not presided over by God. There's a tendency in our culture to equate "darkness" with something bad or evil, but there's also beauty and growth that can only take place darkness. Yes, we are walking in darkness, but God is present to give us night vision; God is present to help us to be productive and embrace this reality of ours until darkness and light can dance together to create beauty and harmony beyond what we are used to. P.S. I love it that there's a Korean version to your column!

    by Yena Hwang

    December 2, 2011

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