As the United Kingdom began vaccinating people against the coronavirus, the U.S. diagnosed its thirteen-millionth case of the virus. Tears of joy and grief mingled. Hope and despair created a sense of whiplash in my heart. While listening to the news, I was trying to fold beaten egg whites into melted chocolate to make a flourless chocolate cake. The recalcitrant chocolate seemed as slow to incorporate egg whites as my soul was in blending hope with the sorrow that swirled in my heart.
I need hope. I need a light to shine in the darkness. I need flourless chocolate cake.
Making a flourless chocolate cake (click here for recipe) has become my metaphor for 2020. The beaten egg whites create lift when folded into the dense bittersweet chocolate. The stark white of the eggs eventually becomes so incorporated that it blends in and transforms everything into a lighter, fudgy, silky creation. I need the light of hope to do something similar with the dark and bitter times of 2020. I need the hope of a new creation on the other side.
I need that hope because the whiplash and suffering continue even as vaccines become available. In the past week, Congress passed a relief bill that brought hope to hundreds of millions of people, but the President has refused to sign it. Therefore, over 14 million Americans lost their enhanced unemployment benefits this morning and more than 40 million become eligible for eviction this week. Just before I hit the publish button on this post, the President finally signed the bill. It’s good news and more whiplash.
Holding onto hope in the face of such interminable tragedy, injustice, and loss is really hard. I need my egg whites to transform the chocolate and bring forth goodness. I need a light to clear away the darkness.
Like finding hope, folding egg whites into melted chocolate is counterintuitive. If you push it too fast, you lose their transformational effect. You have to be patient and gentle. The egg whites don’t permeate the chocolate all at once (see the picture above), so you shouldn’t give up hope that you’ll succeed. It takes time. You have to persist and trust the process you’ve been told to follow. Eventually the light prevails.
“The light shines in the darkness and the darkness did not overcome it” (John:5).
That’s why, when my husband and I decided to spend Christmas by ourselves this year, I decided to make another flourless chocolate cake. I noticed again how the dark chocolate seemingly resists the egg whites as strongly and resolutely as 2020 resists glimmers of hope. Nevertheless, I persisted.
Then I prayed as I stirred. I prayed a Christmas prayer that light and hope will enter our lives and bear us up. That love will shine in the darkness and bring good from all that is happening. Patiently and gently I folded the eggs and chocolate together, making space for light to transform the heavy darkness. Little by little, the alchemy happened and something miraculous was created again.
It may seem odd for a flourless chocolate cake to remind me of the Christmas message, but the Christmas message is odd, anyway, don’t you think? The Creator of the Universe loves humanity so much as to become human? To be born as a vulnerable baby to poor parents under an oppressive government? The Divine becomes incarnate in human flesh and lives among us?
If we believe that, we might as well say that God is present in the suffering of patients who gasp for breath and the medical staff who care for them, in the black and brown people killed by government and the people who work for change, in the families who wait in food lines and those who carry it to them, in all who are lonely or grieve during this pandemic and those who provide comfort.
Believing that God became human and that our lives matter to the Holy One takes a stretch of the imagination or an opening of the heart. Yet this is the meaning of Christmas. And if “the hopes and fears of all the years” are born in Bethlehem, then I suppose it is alright for me to see them in my mixing bowl, as well.
I need Christmas and chocolate cake to help me see that God is even now folding hope and courage into our lives. God is even now helping us create something good, true, and wise from what is happening. God is helping us even now to feed the hungry, care for the sick, welcome the lonely, mend broken hearts, and create a better future. Together, we will will help God bring justice and compassion to a world torn by chaos and injustice. Good will triumph over evil and life over death.
The light shines in the darkness even now, and the darkness cannot not overcome it.