When I grew up in Seoul, Korea, there were war drills. Yes, war drills. On the fifteenth of each month, we had a short 30-minute war drill. Sirens went off, and cars and people had to stop in the middle of the streets, or wherever they were, to hide.
Also, there was a special drill at night once or twice a year for an hour when no one was allowed to turn any lights on in their homes. When I was very young, the night drills scared me.
My mom, who took the Korean War very seriously, was adamant about hiding the light. She covered all the windows with dark fabrics, even door cracks. And if you turned any light on by accident, patrols yelled at the door, “Turn the light off!” I think I was more terrified of their voices than the darkness itself.
When I reached elementary school age, I went to the roof with my dad one night during a drill. It was early summer, and our roof was built with a mini terrace area so we could walk up and lie down on a blanket to watch the stars and look around our neighborhood. I still remember that night. I was shocked to realize how dark the city could be. And how bright stars really were. Amazed at how many stars were in the sky.
I asked my dad, “Where they are coming from, Dad? I’ve never seen them before.”
“They were always there, my darling.” He answered. “You just didn’t see them well because of the city lights around you.”
I learned that night that stars could be revealed more in the dark.
Our Christmas cantata this year is “Celebration of the Light.” I collected beautiful music composed by several different composers. You will hear a range of music from a beautiful a cappella song to songs that use a full orchestra, children’s choir, soloists and a handbell choir all together.
In the Gospel of John chapter one, John describes the light: “The true light that gives light to everyone was coming into the world. He was in the world, and though the world was made through him, the world did not recognize him. He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him. Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God—children not of natural descent, but born of God.”
From the Gospels of John to Luke, we will illustrate the story of the Light through our cantata. We will hear why the Light came to us and who truly recognized the Light, and we will celebrate the Light with a joyful response: “Gloria in Excelsis Deo!” (Glory to God in the Highest!)
“Gloria in Excelsis Deo” is originally from an early hymn, known as the angel hymn, sung during Christ’s nativity scene in Luke 2:14. “Glory to god in the highest, and on earth peace among men of good will,” has been sung in churches since the third century. Many composers created beautiful, celebrant melodies and instrumental music using this lyric throughout history. One of our cantata songs is “Gloria in Excelsis Deo” by Mark Hayes. You will find the line “Gloria in Excelsis Deo” not only in this one song, but also throughout the cantata in many songs and hymns that proclaim and praise his glory and acclaim peace on earth.
You will experience a beautiful celebration through the stories of Mary, angels and shepherds and the prophet Simeon, who will all use beautiful songs to proclaim the joy of the Light.
Christmas is a season of hope, peace and joy, which are things not found in department stores or shiny decorations. We can find them only in Christ Jesus who was born in the lowest place but also as the True Light. I believe that when our hearts become truly humble, we can find the hope, peace and joy of Christ even in the midst of darkness.
As I experienced on that roof in Korea, the Light can be recognized more clearly when the darkness is darker. An amazing part of the story of the Light is the birth of it isn’t the end of the story. It continues through us. Jesus called us to be the light of the world. He calls us to shine out from the darkness.
I pray that the story of the Light brings us not only a night of celebration but that it empowers us to be the light in this dark world. I hope you will join me at our Christmas Cantata, December 11, to celebrate the True Light who came for everyone.