The Everlasting Light
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This anthem was conceived as a fresh approach to Phillips Brooks's familiar Christmas text, "O Little Town of Bethlehem." I have long found the tune with which it is commonly paired, ST. LOUIS, to be overly sentimental. Studying the text, I decided to focus on the image of "everlasting light." I first tried to imagine how the stillness of that Christmas night could be captured in sound, and how the light might gradually break in to dispel the darkness. We hear this first as fleeting shafts in stanzas 1 and 2, then retreating to an almost mute sense of awe in stanza 3 at God's wondrous gift. As "the dear Christ enters in," light floods the landscape in stanza 4 as we raise with full voice our never-ending prayer for God's grace: "O holy child of Bethlehem, descend to us, we pray; cast out our sin, and enter in, be born in us today!" The music then retreats back toward silence as we ponder the marvel of that night. The many modulations (G to G-flat to A-flat and finally back to G) suggest the mysterious paths of the spiritual journey by which we come to know Christ. The piece is dedicated to my dear friend Rebecca Mastalerz, a diaconal minister who for many years has accompanied and strengthened me on my own journey of faith.