O LITTLE TOWN OF BETHLEHEM
Phillips Brooks, 1835–1893
So Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem the town of David, because he belonged to the house and line of David. (Luke 2:4)
In the same way that God’s “wondrous gift” came to Bethlehem, silently, so Christ comes into our lives today and casts out our sins and fears if we are willing to have Him abide in our lives. Then “the dear Christ enters in.” How beautifully the glorious message of Christmas is told in this well-phrased hymn by Phillips Brooks, one of America’s most outstanding ministers of the past century.
During a trip to the Holy Land in 1865, Brooks went to the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem on Christmas Eve and worshiped there. He was deeply moved by this experience. Three years later, while pastoring the Holy Trinity Church in Philadelphia, Brooks desired to have a special carol for the children to sing in their Sunday school Christmas program. Recalling the peaceful scene in the little town of Bethlehem, Brooks completed the writing of the text in just one evening. He gave a copy of the words to his organist, Lewis R. Redner, and requested him to compose a melody that would be easy for the children to sing. On the evening just before the program was to be given, Redner awakened suddenly from his sleep with the present melody in his mind—and he quickly wrote it out. “O Little Town of Bethlehem” has been a favorite with children and adults around the world since that time.
O little town of Bethlehem, how still we see thee lie! Above thy deep and dreamless sleep the silent stars go by; yet in thy dark streets shineth the everlasting Light—the hopes and fears of all the years are met in thee tonight.
For Christ is born of Mary—and gathered all above, while mortals sleep, the angels keep their watch of wond’ring love. O morning stars, together proclaim the holy birth, and praises sing to God the King, and peace to men on earth.
How silently, how silently the wondrous gift is giv’n! So God imparts to human hearts the blessings of His heav’n. No ear may hear His coming, but, in this world of sin, where meek souls will receive Him still the dear Christ enters in.
O holy Child of Bethlehem descend to us, we pray; cast out our sin and enter in—be born in us today. We hear the Christmas angels the great glad tidings tell; O come to us, abide with us, our Lord Emmanuel!
For Today: Micah 5:2; Matthew 2:1–12; Luke 2:1–7
In the midst of all the rush and activity of the Christmas season, take time to rejoice in the joy of Christ’s birth and ask Him to abide with you in a special way.
Osbeck, K. W.
- And thou Bethlehem Ephrathah art little to be among the thousands of Judah, yet out of thee shall he come forth unto me, that shall be the ruler in Israel: whose goings forth have been from the beginning and from everlasting. Micah 5:2
- When Jesus then was born at Bethlehem in Judea, in the days of Herod the king, behold, there came Wise men from the East to Jerusalem, Saying, Where is the King of the Jews that is born? for we have seen his star in the East, and are come to worship him. When king Herod heard this, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him. And gathering together all the chief Priests and Scribes of the people, he asked of them, where Christ should be born, And they said unto him, At Bethlehem in Judea: for so it is written by the Prophet, And thou Bethlehem in the land of Judah, are not least among the Princes of Judah: for out of thee shall come the governor that shall feed my people Israel. Then Herod privily called the Wise men, and diligently of them the time of the star that appeared. And sent them to Bethlehem, saying, Go, and search diligently for the babe: and when ye have found him, bring me word again, that I may come also, and worship him. So when they had heard the king, they departed: and lo, the star which they had seen in the East, went before them, till it came and stood over the place where the babe was. And when they saw the star, they rejoiced with an exceeding great joy. And went into the house, and found the babe with Mary his mother, and fell down and worshipped him, and opened their treasures, and presented unto him gifts, even gold, and frankincense, and myrrh. And after they were warned of God in a dream, that they should not go again to Herod, they returned into their country another way. Matthew 2:1–12
- And it came to pass in those days, that there came a decree from Augustus Ceasar, that all the world should be taxed. (This first taxing was made when Quirinius was governor of Syria.) Therefore went all to be taxed, every man to his own city. And Joseph also went up from Galilee out of a city of Nazareth, into Judea, unto the city of David, which is called Bethlehem (because he was of the house and lineage of David,) To be taxed with Mary that was given him to wife, which was with child. And so it was, that while they were there, the days were accomplished that she should be delivered. And she brought forth her first begotten son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a cratch, because there was no room for them in the inn. (Luke 2:1–7)
(Pardon, I did not realize this had not been published; and, my schedule was slammed yesterday. Should be a bit less so this day, praise the Lord!)