Hey there church! Consider this a prelude to my Christmas Eve message this Friday at 5pm. (Unless it rains...boo!) These thoughts are inspired by my reading of the book of the same name by the renowned (ex) pastor Barbra Brown Taylor. The book is a challenge against Christian culture that fears the dark as a result of duality of understanding Jesus as light and dark as sin. I'm only about 20% through it as of the time of this writing but I find it to be wonderfully healing to immerse myself in the ways that God is present and even affirming in the dark.
I should rewind and explain where these thoughts even came from at first.
When I was younger my friends and I would roam the streets all day but once the sun was setting it was a universal rule across our households to return home. It seems to me that in earlier times, when society was simpler, without electricity, and a much more dangerous place generally, it made sense to talk more about God as "holy Light." Darkness was scary. Animals and robbers stalked in the night. Light was a beacon of safety and comfort.
All of those things are still true to a degree, but now, in a world that is overrun with the thin blue light of screens and covered by the ubiquitous glow of street lamps, it might make sense to start talking of God as "holy Darkness," a kind of restful Murk, free from distraction and flicker, rest and focus in a time of merciless distraction. How most of us yearn for a kind of gentle Dimness (even Gloom?) that calls us from our frenetic doings, calms the senses, and brings peace to the mind. Large companies are even aware of this as product makers like Apple and Google have baked in "Digital Wellness" screen tracking into their products to help you get a better sense of just how many hours you spend online. A growing campground business "Getaway House" is entirely marketed on the premise of escaping from all our tech and obligations and returning to our circadian roots. (Which by the way these things are amazing and I highly recommend them if you need to recharge.)
As I reflect on the majesty of the night in which Jesus was born we love to elevate the star in that story but ignore that the star can only be seen in the dark. We gather around candlelight and sing out the beauty of Silent Night. There is something magical here about the dualism of light and dark on the most holy night of our faith.
What is your reaction to the night? Do you both fear and revere it? Crave and reject it? In a culture so infected with certainty and choosing sides there is a beauty to embracing the "gray" of our faith.
"Lull, woken one, and repose into life, and the shadow of Christ will dusk upon you, and give you sleep."
Hope you can join me Friday at 5:00pm where we unpack this more around our theme of Coming Home for Christmas.
Scripture that Inspired
“Indeed, the darkness shall not hide from You, But the night shines as the day; The darkness and the light are both alike to You.” ~ Psalm 139:12
"I will give you the treasures of darkness and riches hidden in secret places, so that you may know that it is I, the Lord, the God of Israel, who calls you by your name." ~ Isaiah 45:3
Praying the Hymns
I had no idea what to expect as I've never heard this hymn before but it so perfectly captures the haunting sound you expect from a night time hymn but as the full choir comes in it's almost as if the sun is rising and the light is here once again. May our prayer for today not be to reject or ignore the darkness we face but pray that God abides with us during those trying times.