Over the darkness (God of creation)
Notes and commentary on hymn
Over the darkness.
This song explores themes of darkness and light, order and chaos,
running through scripture and our own lives.
The Trinity of the Godhead is deeply woven throughout.
The four verses are:
- Jesus' birth and incarnation
- Jesus' crucifixion and resurrection
- Our own lives, including care for God's creation
- Verse 1
Right at the outset,
this digs deep into the subtleties of
Genesis 1 as expressed in the Hebrew Bible, and which we so often miss.
The waters are pre-existent.
In a passage of mostly "exalted prose"
the Hebrew "tohu wa bohu" is a deliberately poetic construct.
That poetic-fragment principle is here retained
in an English-language alliterative technique in
"the waste and the waters", albeit applied to a different part of the verse.
"your breath": The creation is by God's spirit ("ruach") or "breath".
It is important to retain this.
By the way, as Christians we should be cautious about over-assumptions
that fully equate this with the Holy Spirit of our Trinity.
"voice sang creation":
God simply spoke and it happened.
The term here resonates with "the morning stars sang together" of
This verse has moved from darkness to light.
This idea recurs in later verses.
- "Ground of our being": Paul Tillich's concise phrase "ground of being" seems to give us a toehold
on so much of what is in the Pauline epistles
Col. 1:16-18; etc.),
and Acts 17:28
about the presence of God.
- "Ground of our being and Lord of our ways":
Not only who we are (being) but of what we do (ways).
- Verse 2
Darkness is present alongside the light of the incarnation,
as the opening passages of both Matthew and John make clear.
"Lost your direction": We haven't just "lost our direction";
underlying that we have also lost God's direction.
"Mary; she brought you to birth":
In Gen. 1 God had brought humankind into existence.
At the incarnation, there is an element of mirror-image:
it is the human Mary who brings the incarnate Christ into his own world.
"Word of the Father": In addition to reflecting John's "Logos"
description, this wording of course takes us directly to one of
the great Christmas carols, "O come, all ye faithful".
- Verse 3
The crucifixion darkness appears to win.
But then there is the light of resurrection morning.
"quietly God raised you":
We often say "Jesus rose".
But there is a strong element of "God raised Jesus".
"quietly God raised you":
"Quietly"? In the gospel accounts there is a sharp contrast
between the crucifixion of Jesus being a public spectacle
(we might say 'loud')
and the act of his resurrection being private.
Not many hymns or songs capture this hidden aspect,
so I felt it important to provide a hymn which does.
- "from death you leapt free": "Leapt" is a specific back-reference
to the "danced" of the first verse.
- Verse 4
And us? How does the light of Christ play into the darkness of our lives?
- "live as your image": "Image" implicitly picks up the "light" theme.
- "live as your image":
A back reference to the Gen. 1 creation narrative.
God created us, not as slaves, but as his image-bearers.
We pray for the courage to live up to that vocation in our lives and in his creation.