In the Christmas eve service our pastor poignantly declared “The faintest light can illumine the deepest darkness” as he lit a candle. He then started lighting the candles of the congregants (for we had all been granted our own slender white candle upon entry to the sanctuary). Soon the sanctuary was brightened (if not quite illuminated) by a few hundred flickering lights.
(An irrelevant aside: The first Christmas eve candlelight service I ever remember attending was in, of all places, Las Vegas. When we returned to our hotel room I discovered to my delight that Santa had visited and left behind a Digital Derby Auto Raceway. I was delighted with the technologically primitive toy.)
The metaphor of a candle illumining the darkness (with the obvious implications for truth and Christian witness) is one of many metaphors Christians draw from the natural world (other standards invoke wind, rivers, rain, plant growth et cetera).
I always thought the light-in-the-darkness metaphor was one of the better ones. As I looked down at my candle the pastor’s words echoed in my mind. “The faintest light can illumine the deepest darkness.”
But then a disturbing thought interrupted my serene reflections. The deepest darkness is a black hole. And as we all know, nothing escapes from a black hole, not even light. Consider this rather haunting passage where Kitty Ferguson describes a star collapsing into a black hole:
“Imagine a split second when the curvature of spacetime at the surface of the star is almost but not quite severe enough to bend the paths of photons coming from the star all the way back in on themselves. If we want to put that in terms of ‘escape velocity’, photons travel at lightspeed, and the escape velocity from the star’s surface is not quite that great yet, but almost. We see the last photons that will ever escape from this star escaping in this split second, breaking for freedom with the beast of gravity nipping at their heels.” (Prisons of Light (Cambridge University Press, 1998), 40).
And after that … the deepest darkness.
Needless to say, my sorry little candle wouldn’t have stood a chance.