December 15

O Little Town of Bethlehem

In 1868, Episcopalian Pastor Phillip Brooks needed a song for the kids to sing at a Christmas service at his church.  Not satisfied with any other songs he had heard, Brooks decided to write a song himself.  Inspired by a Christmas Eve service Brooks had attended in Bethlehem during a Holy Land trip three years prior, Brooks sat down and wrote the song, “O Little Town of Bethlehem.”  Not only did the children in his church sing this song in their Christmas program, but millions more continue to sing the song today, some 150 years later.  Think about that for a moment.  This Philadelphia Pastor has a top hit that has lasted 15 decades!  Knowing that best sellers in the iTunes music store top the charts for only about 15 days and even the best of our contemporary praise and worship songs might only persist for about 15 years, Brooks song is amazingly durable.  What is it about this song that has allowed it to endure?

I think the message of this hymn is very powerful.  I have always been struck by the phrase at the end of the first verse, “the hopes and fears of all the years are met in Thee tonight.”  The idea that Jesus Christ comforts our deepest fears and provides for us our greatest hope is an amazingly powerful message!  As I ponder the significance of this phrase, I am reminded of 1 Peter 1:8-9, “Though you have not seen Him, you love Him; and even though you do not see Him now, you believe in Him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy, for you are receiving the goal of your faith, the salvation of your souls.”  Our deepest fear is death.  Our greatest hope is eternal life in fellowship with our Creator, the salvation of our souls.  Truly, in Christ the hopes and fears of all the years are met.

As you sing this hymn this year may you be reminded of the comfort and hope Jesus Christ provides to you and me.

O Little Town of Bethlehem

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 wondering 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 given!

So God imparts to human hearts

The blessings of His heaven.

No ear may his 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 to us today

We hear the Christmas angels

The great glad tidings tell

O come to us, abide with us

Our Lord Emmanuel.

 

To access all 31 days of “The Christmas Carols” Devotional, click here.

To access playlists for all 31 songs, visit:

 

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