From The President
Piercing the darkness
It is a joy to wish you a Merry Christmas on behalf of the seminary community. This is a season of deep meaning in which we recognize the wonder of new birth and see the sacred amidst the ordinary. For some, it is a time of extravagant celebration. For others, Christmas joy is more subtle and perhaps even laced with pain or loneliness. The lessons and carols of our tradition speak poignantly of the interplay of light and darkness.
The most prominent images of the holiday highlight the light and the happiness, but those of us in ministry - indeed, all of us who have lived a few years - know something of the darkness that gives meaning to the light. When we read in the Gospel of John that the "light shines in the darkness and the darkness has not overcome it," we know that it is sometimes a serious act of faith to believe it.
Dec. 21 is the 15th anniversary of my father's death. He died during the middle of the longest night of the year. We buried him in a snowstorm on Christmas Eve. The joy I feel this time of year is not necessarily of the rosy variety, but it is very real. It is real because I have faith that the light shines in the darkness and the darkness has not overcome it. Even when it is very dark.
When I was a small child, my family had a holiday tradition of traveling to my grandparents' farm late in the night after attending the Christmas Eve service in town. I have a very distinct memory of one very cold evening in which my father and I trudged through deep snow toward the house after parking the car in the barn. The sounds and smells of the animals were vivid, but all we could see was a distant yard light near the house. We stopped for a moment, transfixed by its beauty but chilled to the bone. Somehow the faintness of the light seemed to make the night feel even colder and darker.
And then something became apparent to me. I haven't forgotten the feeling I had inside as the crisp air in front of me began to cloud a bit. I haven't forgotten the feeling because I realized that the air was clouded by my father's breath, illuminated by the faint yet very real light. I knew then that something subtle and seemingly distant can illumine the life and the love that is ever around us.
In this sacred time, may light pierce your darkness and that of your loved ones and your parishioners, of your neighbors and your friends, and even of your enemies. I pray that what that light illumines is of deep comfort for you and for those around you. Once again, Merry Christmas.