STLT#275, Joyful Is the Dark

I know there is a need in the world for Brian Wren’s songs. I hear it every time I get to one, because the fans come out of the woodwork and I am left wondering what I’ve missed.

Welcome to today’s Brian Wren hymn, which really, really, bugs me. I mean, first of all, it has Wren’s signature sound, and I confess that if I wasn’t paying attention, I’d start singing Bring Many Names instead, it sounds so similar.

But what really bugs me are the lyrics:

Joyful is the dark, holy, hidden God,
rolling cloud of night beyond all naming:
majesty in darkness, energy of love,
Word-in-flesh, the mystery proclaiming.

Joyful is the dark, Spirit of the deep,
winging wildly o’er the world’s creation,
silken sheen of midnight, plumage black and bright,
swooping with the beauty of a raven.

Joyful is the dark, shadowed stable floor;
angels flicker, God on earth confessing,
as with exultation, Mary, giving birth,
hails the infant cry of need and blessing.

Joyful is the dark, coolness of the tomb,
waiting for the wonder of the morning;
never was that midnight touched by dread and gloom:
darkness was the cradle of the dawning.

Joyful is the dark depth of love divine,
roaring, looming thundercloud of glory, holy,
haunting beauty, living, loving God.
Halleluja! Sing and tell the story!

I don’t even know where to begin here. First, I feel like telling the whole Christian story in one song misses a fair bit of detail and nuance. Second, why the darkness metaphor? I mean, I get the whole Jungian shadow stuff, but that’s not this. I honestly don’t understand why, except maybe as a counter to all the terrible “white as snow” language we hear in older hymns. But it seems awkward, like a one-line metaphor taken tragically too far.

The more I sing Wren’s stuff, the less I like it. And if I have a vote on what to include in the next hymnal, this one will be a firm no from me.

Let the apologists commence.

2 responses to “STLT#275, Joyful Is the Dark”

  1. Helen Elena Shwery Avatar
    Helen Elena Shwery

    These words are quite odd and I cannot find any scripture in the Bible that God is darkness.

  2. Love this hymn.

    Why the darkness metaphor? Why not? God is present in all times and places, not only in the midst of endless metaphors about white and light.

    The real question is, why does the darkness focus bother you?

    As for scripture: have you read the opening two verses of the Bible?

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