Note the Scripture from Micah, a great prophecy regarding the birth place of Christ,
- “But as for you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, too little to be among the cities of Judah. From you One will go forth for Me to be ruler in Israel. His goings forth are from long ago, from the days of eternity. Therefore, He will give them up until the time when she who is in labor has borne a child. Then the remainder of His brethren will return to the sons of Israel. And He will arise and shepherd His flock in the strength of the LORD, in the majesty of the name of the LORD His God. And they will remain, because at that time He will be great to the ends of the earth.” (Micah 5:2-4 – NASB)
Phillip Brooks, considered by many “a prince among preachers,” was born in 1835. On December 24, 1865, Pastor Brooks found himself far away from his Philadelphia congregation at Holy Trinity Church. He was in Palestine, the Holy Land. It was Christmas Eve, and from the city of Jerusalem, Brooks made the trek to the little town of Bethlehem. That trip, that night, was to have a profound effect on Pastor Brooks’ life.
Times were difficult for Brooks as he sought to minister to his congregation during the difficult days of the Civil War. And to add to that Brooks was the one asked to give the funeral message over President Abraham Lincoln, who had been assassinated. A man of only thirty some years, but the tumultuous days in which he ministered had taken their toll on him and it was evident in his worn appearance. It was in his trek to Bethlehem on that Christmas Eve that Brooks seemed to draw strength for his ministry.
Returning to America, Brooks enlisted the aid of his friend Lewis Redner to help him in building up the Holy Trinity Church’s outreach. Starting with thirty children and a somewhat small congregation, the two men built the ministry up to where over 1,000 children were attending Sunday School on Sunday mornings and the pews for the worship services were overfilled.
In 1868, looking to write something for the Sunday School, Brooks thought back to his Bethlehem journey. Drawing from that life-changing experience, on Christmas Eve of 1868, he penned the poem “O Little Town Of Bethlehem.” With the aid of music being added to the words of the poem by his associate Redner, on Christmas morning, the great Christmas hymn was born.
- “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.”
Surely this seasonal hymn has become a standard, one heard and sung in churches all around the world at this particular time of the year. It is one that is familiar to all of us, Christian and non-Christian alike. Its words call out to every human soul . . .
- “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.”
Ah yes . . . “But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, even to those who believe in His name” (John 1:12 – NASB)
- “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.”
I can practically write this hymn from memory . . . it has been such a blessing to me over the years. Brethren, I pray that it is a blessing to you also. Let us joyously say with Brooks and Redner, “O come to us, abide with us, our Lord Emmanuel.”
Have a good day . . . and as you walk recall to mind the prophecy of Micah and the fulfillment of it that took place that first Christmas in Bethlehem.
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