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Veiled in Darkness Judah Lay

The following was delivered as a reflection on a Advent hymn during the Moravian Ministry Association’s worship service for Advent on December 6, 2012:

Hymn 276, Moravian Book of Worship

church with snow at nightIt was the winter of 1915.  Plans were underway for the annual Christmas Service at Harvard Divinity School.  One of the preparations for this service was a hymn-writing contest.  Students were invited to write a Christmas hymn and, from those submitted,  one would be chosen to be sung at the Christmas Service.

For a year now, war had raged in Europe.  As the dark clouds of this conflict hung over the earth, my dad, who, after graduating from Moravian Theological Seminary, was spending a year at Harvard on a scholarship, wrote a hymn in response to the invitation.  His hymn was about the darkness that hung over Judah and was shattered by the glorious light that came with the birth of Christ and the gifts of peace and good will as proclaimed by the angels.  It was this hymn, Veiled in Darkness Judah Lay, that was chosen to be sung at that year’s service.

The hymn’s second stanza recognizes that the earth still experiences darkness and that those seeking relief from their darkness still pray for peace and good will.  The third stanza provides us with a prayer for the Light that God Sent to the earth in Jesus Christ to shine upon today’s world, to shatter our darkness and fill our souls with love and light, bringing once again peace and good will.

A year after my dad’s death, mother used this third stanza  on the Christmas cards she sent, as has more recently the Moravian Ministries Foundation.  Through the years it has been for me an appropriate and meaningful prayer for the Advent Season.

Veiled in darkness Judah lay,
waiting for the promised day,
while across the shadowy night
streamed a flood of glorious light,
heav’nly voices hailed Christ’s birth,
“Peace, good will to all on earth.”

Still the earth in darkness lies.
Up from death’s dark vale arise
voices of a world in grief,
prayers of those who seek relief;
to our darkness bring new birth,
“Peace, good will to all on earth.”

Light of light, we humbly pray,
shine upon your world today;
break the gloom of our dark night,
fill our souls with love and light,
give your blessed word rebirth,
“Peace, good will to all on earth.”

Used with permission.

graham rights bxw smThe Rt. Rev. Graham Rights is a bishop of the Moravian Church. His father, the Rev. Douglas LeTell Rights, was the author of this hymn. 

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