Advent, Day 26: Burn This as a Light

LOOK: Costa do Sol on Sunday Evening by Cassi Namoda

Namoda, Cassi_Costa do Sol on Sunday Evening
Cassi Namoda (Mozambican, 1988–), Costa do Sol on Sunday Evening, 2019. Acrylic on canvas, 48 × 54 in. (121.9 × 137.2 cm).

LISTEN: “Burn This as a Light” by Tom and Karen Wuest, on Burn This as a Light (2017)

When journeying through your dark night
Burn this as a light
Until the dawn horizon
Burn, burn this as a light

What God has voiced inside you
Burn, burn this as a light
Creation all about you
Burn, burn this as a light

The song of children laughing
Burn, burn this as a light
The sound of people singing
Burn, burn this as a light

The morning star arises
Burn, burn this as a light
Raising our joys from sorrows
Burn, burn this as a light

The tree of life bearing fruit
Burn, burn this as a light
The healing of the nations
Burn, burn this as a light

When you come to take us home
We’ll lay our oil lamps down
In the abiding light of the Lamb
We’ll lay our oil lamps down

Beside your glorified body
We’ll lay our oil lamps down
Healed by the holy hands of love
We’ll lay our oil lamps down

“Burn This as a Light” is the last of twelve songs on an album of the same name. Tom Wuest (pronounced “weest”) and his wife, Karen, recorded Burn This as a Light with their sons, Isaiah (trumpet) and Arbutus (alto saxophone and clarinet), over the course of 2016 at their home in the Ohio River Valley. Friends Kenny Havens, Peter La Grand (of Ordinary Time), Calum Rees, and Jono Ryan also play on the album, the latter three contributing parts from their remote locations.

Tom writes,

These songs of hope, which are all rooted in the biblical narrative, grew out of particular stories of sorrow and reflect our prayerful working while watching and waiting for a God-breathed dawn to arise. . . . We sing [these prayers] for the healing of the nations, the land, and the waters of the earth. Burn this as a light. We sing for the renewal of the church. Burn this as a light. We sing for God’s peace upon the poor and oppressed, near and far. Burn this as a light. We sing for our creaturely neighbors and the creation that graces these hills. Burn this as a light.

The title track acknowledges the darkness through which we pilgrims travel but catalogs a number of earthly glimmers of the new day that can embolden our faith, our hope, our love along the way. Communal song, children’s laughter, the natural world, our callings, our moral consciousness—these are but a few of the things that we can “burn as a light,” that is, that can remind us of the goodness and beauty that is our origin and destiny, and thus light the path forward, help us make it Home.

We can also “burn as a light” those passages of scripture that tell us who we are and where we’re headed. The song references several biblical visions—for example, those of the ancient Hebrew prophets, who saw with their inner eye sorrow turned to joy (Isa. 35:10; 61:3; Jer. 31:13), and God’s revelation to John of the new heavens and the new earth (Rev. 22). It’s a passage we’ve visited several times already in this Advent series, but it’s so good, I’ll quote it again:

Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, bright as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb through the middle of the street of the city. On either side of the river is the tree of life with its twelve kinds of fruit, producing its fruit each month, and the leaves of the tree are for the healing of the nations. Nothing accursed will be found there any more. But the throne of God and of the Lamb will be in it, and his servants will worship him; they will see his face, and his name will be on their foreheads. And there will be no more night; they need no light of lamp or sun, for the Lord God will be their light, and they will reign forever and ever. . . .

“See, I am coming soon . . . I, Jesus, . . . the root and descendant of David, the bright morning star.”

—Revelation 22:1–5, 12, 16

In the end we’ll lay our oil lamps down, because we will have made it through the dark. There will be only light, the light of Christ—blazing, transfiguring, fulfilling.

Singer-songwriter and farmer Tom Wuest was born in Cincinnati, Ohio. He married Karen in 1993 and, after she finished her MFA in creative writing in Colorado, the two of them moved to Vancouver, where their sons were born. In Vancouver Tom studied theology at Regent College while writing singable music for churches. He also helped start Red Clover Farm (then part of the ministry Jacob’s Well), growing organic produce on vacant lots for distribution to the community. After seven years of urban farming, in 2008 the Wuests moved to Galiano Island, one of the Gulf Islands off the southern coast of British Columbia, to farm in a rural context.

In 2011 Tom and his family returned to the US and lived among the Vineyard Central community in Norwood, Ohio, before moving, in 2012, about an hour southeast to a one-hundred-acre plot of land in Adams County, where they set about restoring an old farmstead, living in a dairy barn while they built their house. It’s there, at the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains, that they live now. On their farm they tend animals, vineyards, and large gardens; make their own cheese, butter, bread, and wine; and forage onions, garlic, mushrooms, and other wild foods. They regularly hosted and supported the “parish farmers” of Moriah Pie, a pay-as-you-can, locally sourced pizzeria in Norwood founded by Robert and Erin Lockridge, during its eight years of operation.

“A large part of my vocation is connected to sustainable building and tending the beauty, integrity, and health of the community of creation,” Tom told me. “The songs I write all come out of the confluence of this labor as I seek to love this place, this community, and all who dwell here—offered in love to the broader community of ‘seekers and sufferers’ (as Jürgen Moltmann puts it) in the world.”

Tom’s most recent musical project has been collaborating on the Parish Collective’s Songs of Place, a live album that will be released in the coming months and that features six of Tom’s original songs. When writing music, he says, he likes to look for places where the story of God meets our story.

Explore more of his music at https://tomwuest.bandcamp.com/ or wherever you listen to music.

One thought on “Advent, Day 26: Burn This as a Light

  1. So grateful today to listen to this beautiful song and read the story of the journey of this man and his family. This gives me a great deal of hope that there are many “hidden lives” living the grace of their faithful response to the call of what has been revealed to them as they makes their way in the reality of their lives. Thank you for sharing this song and Tom Wuest’s story.

    Like

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