After the terrorist attacks in Paris and Mali, the downing of a Russian airliner, and a suicide bombing in Beirut, I went to church with a heart full of foreboding, dread, and concern for the future. Worship that morning included the dedication of a new pipe organ, and I was uncomfortable. Was it appropriate, in the midst of violent hatred, the killing of innocents, the nihilism and fear, to be celebrating a pipe organ?

The sermon was a dialogue between spoken word and organ music. The preacher creatively led us in a survey of our historic faith as reflected in scripture: exultant praise and gratitude to the Creator, weeping and lament at suffering, tragedy, and dislocation, comfort and thanksgiving for homecoming and redemption, and exultant joy at the presence of a loving God in the midst of life, even at its darkest moments. The organist responded to each of these themes with passionate music of lament and consolation or praise and adoration. Halfway through I concluded that this is exactly what Christian faith affirms: there is beauty in the midst of ugliness, truth in the midst of lies, love in the midst of hatred, and light shining in the midst of darkness.

It is this not always reasonable assertion and promise that has touched me deeply for as long as I can remember, particularly at Christmas.