Friday, June 30, 2023

Was it a Night Like This?

 Dr. Matthew J. Walton

Matt Walton is a Minister for Discipleship, teacher, and writer. He loves to help others think about how the Biblical narrative connects to the stories of their lives. He believes that words and stories matter because they help us perceive life in light of God's promises. Matt has written numerous studies for adolescents and adults pertaining to faith and Biblical texts. He is a graduate of East Texas Baptist University, where he received a B. A. in Speech Communications, and George W. Truett Theological  Seminary, where he earned Master of Divinity and Doctor of Ministry degrees.

In the midst of the 2020 Pandemic, medical personnel in our church, South Main Baptist church in Houston, Texas, determined that it was safe to meet outside on Christmas Eve/2020. For Houston, the weather was a bit was actually cold on the evening of December 31, 2020. As we were shivering in the cold, Matt prayed a prayer with several references to Was it a Night Like This? He posed several questions that had never connected with me in such a meaningful way before. I had never attended an outdoor Christmas Eve service that I could remember.

Specifically, some of Matt's questions within the prayer were as follows:

--Did Mary shiver in the cold as she brought forth her first-born son?
--Was Joseph filled with fear as he gazed into the night sky?
--Was it a night like this...when hope was born through God's own Son, the promised One?
--Was it a night like this...when joy unfurled in flight, and through the darkness we found light?
--Was it a night like this...when peace became our balm?

When Matt posed the questions, I was drawn into a more realistic view of the holy event in Bethlehem, and his prayer equipped me with new ideas to enjoy, contemplate, and experience Christmas Eve in a more personal way. In addition, Matt did not leave us without purpose in seeking God through worship on Christmas Eve. The prayer's ending implored the Almighty to "Open our eyes to Your light. Open our eyes to Your glory. In the darkness, we see the glory of Your Son."

Those words and the setting of the holy night with new understanding "sang" for me in a unique way. The mood of Was it a Night Like This? remains the traditional "manger mood" of soft, legato music in which a baby might be able to find rest in the midst of a cold winter night. I realize that the climate of Bethlehem might be unknown to me, but the seeking of a miracle remains a journey I choose to take every year with friends and family, making my personal journey a holy one.

In the setting of Was it a Night Like This?, an ethereal introduction sets the mood of mystery, with a few interesting harmonies on important words like "born," "untold," and "foretold." 

In the plea to the Almighty, sonorous chords with a descant and full-chorus are set to Matt's text:

Open our eyes to Your light on this holy night.
Open our eyes to Your glory.
In the darkness, we see glory,
the glory of Your Son on this holy night.

In the final refrain, sopranos are in duet as a descant. If you do not have enough sopranos to divide, either part will be just fine, as the tenors and altos have the melody. Basses are the foundation, sounding like double bass strings.

This octavo is available from my website in SATBSAB, and SSA. If more convenient, you are welcome to go to J. W. Pepper to purchase. The only difference in purchasing from my site is that the Rehearsal Preparation Sheet is complimentary. Either way is fine.

I hope you will give this octavo a listen, and purchase for your church choir, community choir, or any other group where it might be appropriate.


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