"Before the Marvel of This Night"
understand this text, you must imagine the angels in dialogue prior to "And
suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host, praising
God and saying . . ." This is something of a celestial choir rehearsal based
on Luke 2:13 and 14.
BEFORE THE MARVEL OF THIS NIGHT
Before the marvel of this night
Adoring, fold your wings and bow,
Then tear the sky apart with light
And with your news the world endow.
Proclaim the birth of Christ and peace,
That fear and death and sorrow cease:
Sing peace, sing peace, sing gift of peace.
Awake the sleeping world with song,
This is the day the Lord has made.
Assemble here, celestial throng,
In royal splendor come arrayed.
Give earth a glimpse of heav'nly bliss,
A teasing taste of what they miss:
Sing bliss, sing bliss, sing endless bliss.
The love that we have always known,
Our constant joy and endless light,
Now to the loveless world be shown,
Now break upon its deathly night.
Into one song compress the love,
That rules our universe above:
Sing love, sing love, sing God is love.
- Jaroslav J. Vajda from NOW THE JOYFUL CELEBRATION: HYMNS, CAROLS, AND
SONGS. Morning Star Publishing Co., 1987.
[Isn't it amazing how much we readers have added to the Christmas story in
the last 2000 years? Do you realize that the account in Luke's gospel makes
no mention of singing or of angel wings or of a star? At any rate, this
Lutheran pastor/poet explains the song's perspective: "I decided to
conjecture how the angel hosts may have prepared and rehearsed that first
Christmas song with a handful of shepherds as their audience? Projecting my
experience in choir singing and conducting to that divine chorus, I wrote the
text for which Carl Schalk composed a new melody, since it was not intended
for any existing meter."]
Carl Schalk's fabulous choral setting of this text is one of my favorites:
BEFORE THE MARVEL OF THIS NIGHT, Augsburg 11-2005.
Have a great week,
Director, Institute for Christian Worship
School of Church Music and Worship
Southern Baptist Theological Seminary