Bide with us, for evening shadows darken,
And the day will soon be over, soon be over,
O bide with us, for evening shadows darken.
Luke 24:29 (loosely)
This beautiful setting of the disciples’ plea to the risen Christ is one of many evening prayers that dot the choral landscape. Some other famous examples include the divine “Grace Before Sleep” setting by Susan LaBarr, “Stay with us” by Egil Hovland and “Evening Hymn” by Balfour Gardiner.
As a choir director who almost exclusively offers music in the morning time, these texts always taunt me. Such beautiful music, but it just wouldn’t seem right to sing about Grace before Sleep and then go have brunch afterwards, would it?
Part of the reason this genre of text is so entrancing to me because it taps into the childlike nature of faith. I think of being a child, afraid of the dark, and how unprotected and insecure the darkness made me feel. It’s almost instinctual, that fear.
As we grow older, maybe we aren’t afraid of the dark anymore, but that fear, we realize, was really a fear of the unknown, and the unknown is still scary. Now, that instinctual fear of the dark has morphed into a fear of commitment or disease or loss.
The fear was never really “the dark,” it was a fear of not having complete control.
The hard part about faith is that it doesn’t always mean that God turns the nightlight on. Sometimes it means sitting, blind, in that dark place with Him, and trusting that He sees the way forward.
In the bible story from which this text is taken, it goes even one step further. Whereas Rheinberger’s achingly beautiful interpretation of the text seems to be pleading for Christ to stay with us, as if for our protection, in the context of Luke, the two disciples seem to ask Christ to stay as a courtesy to Him. The two disciples walking to Emmaus do not recognize the risen Christ, and they ask Him to stop and stay with them so that He would not have to continue walking in the dark.
It is not till He breaks bread with them at the table that they recognize Him for who He truly is.
So I guess the message is this: Trust Christ to be the light in your darkness, and be the light to others in theirs. Sounds awfully familiar, doesn’t it?
“Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?”
Jesus replied: “ ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”
Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.
1 John 4:11
Director of Music
First Presbyterian Church