O Little Town Of Bethlehem

“For there is born to you this day in the city of David [Bethlehem] a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.”

— Luke 2:11

Do you know the story behind one of the most beloved Christmas carols, “O Little Town of Bethlehem”? Let me tell it to you. A young Episcopalian minister arrived in Jerusalem on December 24, 1865. He made his way on horseback about six miles south, to the little town of Bethlehem. He stood at the bottom of a hill and was struck by the vision of the town. With very little light around it, the town seemed so dark. How still and silent was the sight. So unlike the flaming metropolises of America, blackness hovered over the little town of Bethlehem.

Three years later, the minister, Phillips Brooks, wrote a poem about Bethlehem. During the week before Christmas, Brooks’ music director, Lewis Redner, wrote a melody for that poem. He finished it just in time for Christmas Sunday, when it was first sung by six Sunday school teachers and thirty-six children. And every Christmas since, that song has touched our hearts, for it speaks of the deepest needs and greatest longings of the human heart and soul.

For centuries the human soul has longed for something more than death. “Is life no more than this?” people ask as they watch their loved ones descend into the tomb to return no more. “There must be more than this.” The hopes of all the world rested with that little Babe in Bethlehem.

Also, the fears of all the world were met there with Him—the fears that life has no ultimate meaning and no significant purpose, that humanity has no future, that we must go down into the pit of oblivion never to live again. But Christ’s birth gives humankind new hope to combat those fears.

Today as you anticipate Christmas, think of Bethlehem and the event that occurred in that humble little town. Allow Christ to meet all your hopes and fears, for He came to do just that.

“Yet in the dark street shineth the everlasting Light; The
hopes and fears of all the years are met in Thee tonight.”
Phillips Brooks