“There is no way.”
That was the initial response from Jeremy Myers, lead pastor of First Baptist Church in Seymour, when Pastor of Worship Nathan Parker brought up the idea to write an entirely original Christmas musical.
“I thought it was too big and went home that night with ‘no’ still in my head,” Myers said. “Then I felt a little bad because he had come to me with the idea, and I immediately squashed it.”
Myers said he decided to think it over and went for a run that evening.
While he was running, the thought “let there be light” came to mind.
“I thought about the connection between the creation and John 1 and thought, ‘OK, maybe we can do a little something with this,’” Myers said. “I went home and immediately wrote the chorus for ‘Let There Be Light,’ the theme song.”
Myers said while he was writing, his mind shifted directions, and he started thinking about Mary and Joseph and their typical presentation. They were star-crossed lovers so excited they get to have the Lord’s child.
“I don’t think that’s the way it was at all, and I think there was probably a little bit of disappointment, discouragement and concern,” Myers said. “We tend to make the Christmas story about the Nativity being this clean thing, but it wasn’t. It was real life.”
Myers said he began thinking about what happened in the Christmas story really isn’t what they had planned and how often that happens in people’s lives.
“Even at Christmastime how often the things we’re dealing with are not going according to plan,” Myers said. “That’s where our faith comes in and we trust that the baby in the manger makes a difference.”
So he shifted directions from “Let There Be Light” to “Not What I Had Planned,” which was actually the first song he wrote for the musical. Having two songs that came on so quickly, Myers had the first verse and chorus for the theme song, and “Not What I Had Planned” was done.
“I began sending Nathan recordings on my phone and came in the next day and played it for him,” Myers said. “By the end of the next full 48 hours, I had three songs written, so then we started thinking maybe we could do this.”
Myers and Parker have been friends since high school, where they both attended Elkhart Baptist Christian School, now Elkhart Christian Academy. They both sang in the choir, played sports and were roommates at Grace College and Theological Seminary.
Parker has been the pastor of worship and media at First Baptist Church for about two and a half years. Before moving to Seymour, he was a sales engineer in Fort Wayne, employed at Sweetwater Sound.
“I worked at Sweetwater for three and a half years selling musical instruments and sound systems,” Parker said. “Prior to that, I was a music pastor at a church in Kendallville, and before that, at North Webster with Jeremy.”
Parker said he was a music pastor for about 10 years before taking a break from it. When he got the call from Myers that First Baptist needed a music pastor, he didn’t hesitate to make the move with his wife, Rachel, and their two children, Titus, 10 and Sophia, 7.
“When I initially talked to Jeremy about writing a Christmas musical, I reminded him that he’d already written a Christmas song, ‘Sweet Baby Jesus,’ which was actually the first Christmas song he wrote years ago,” he said.
Parker said he thought it was a cool song and thought they could do something with that, even if it was just making their own arrangement for Christmas carols.
“So when he was like, ‘Yeah, I don’t think that’s going to happen,’ I thought maybe we could try it a couple of years down the road,” Parker said. “That would give us more time to create the music, but within three weeks, we had more than half the program written.”
Myers said “Sweet Baby Jesus” was written about 10 or so years ago around the time “Talladega Nights” was a big movie.
“Someone in our band at the time had said a Christmas song should be written about that, and I said I could do it, but she said no I couldn’t,” Myers said. “So I did write a song about ‘Sweet Baby Jesus,’ which goes to show that inspiration can come from anywhere.”
All of the songs except for two were completed in May. Myers finished the last song about three weeks ago.
Parker has done all of the arrangements for the songs and said the last time he had a significant part in arranging and writing notations for a choir was probably in college.
“So I’ve had to dust off my music theory skills, and it has been a bit of a challenge but a really cool experience, and I’m excited about where it’s going,” he said.
There are eight original songs in the musical with the possibility of including some carols at the end.
“There are about four or five generations of people standing up on the stage all doing the same thing,” Myers said. “I think we’ve been able to draw out the distinct parts of what has made the various eras of First Baptist Church worthwhile, and we’ve been able to wed them together.”
Every piece of the musical has been created in-house, and there’s no part of it that anyone else in the world will be doing, down to the various guitar parts.
“I wrote the pieces being played by the musicians, but they’re bringing their parts to the table,” Myers said. “We may have written notes, but the choir will be bring their voices to the table. Church member Jane Bartsch is writing the narration, so she’ll be bringing that to the table.”
Seymour High School students Mikayla Myers and Bryce Hatton will have solos in “Not What I Had Planned,” and choir member Marcia Hatton will have a solo in “The Sacrifice.”
“When you write something like this, this is an expression of my heart and this is a piece of me,” Myers said. “As much as we want to say this is something we created, at the same time, it’s something that represents me.
“It’s my feelings, it’s my heart in an attempt to communicate the message, so you want that to be received. There is the concern that some people will not be able to look past the pieces that maybe aren’t their preference to see the broader benefit, but the fact that the whole church is doing this together, that’s a benefit.”
Myers chose “Let There Be Light” as the title of the musical because one of the things he attempted to do when writing the material was to connect the Old Testament to the New Testament.
“I’ve tried to create a thread that someone could take throughout the whole of the Bible to see the Christmas narrative,” Myers said. “I wanted to give a little bit of a why did Jesus come, not just a why of the season.”
He said in every song, there is some element of illumination, light, opening of the eyes or seeing that plays into it. The intent of the musical is to bring light to a dark world.
“The whole idea of the concept of light is a brightening of the darkness, and it brings some joy and some encouragement,” Myers said. “So that’s the hope that this musical won’t just shine light on something that happened long ago but will bring light to the situations we’re facing now.”
If you go
What: “Let There Be Light — A Contemporary Christmas Carol”
When: 10:30 a.m. Sunday
Where: First Baptist Church, 505 Community Drive, Seymour
Who: The public is invited