Thursday, December 07, 2006

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 shines the everlasting Light; the hopes and fears of all the years are met in thee tonight. O holy Child of Bethlehem!
Descend to us, we pray; Cast out our sin and enter in, Be born in us to-day. We hear the Christmas angels. The great glad tidings tell; O come to us, abide with us, Our Lord Emmanuel!

Phillips Brooks wrote that wonderful hymn while riding back to his Boston home after a particularly moving Christmas Eve service in the year 1865. He had visited the actual town of Bethlehem the previous summer and had been struck by the serenity of that small and meager town. Bethlehem in the time of Christ is estimated to have had a population around 500 people. Even small towns can be used by God to further his glory. This is a motif which comes up again and again in the Old and New Testaments. We are reminded of the verse from the Sermon on the Mount that Blessed shall be the meek for they shall inherit the earth. This little backwoods town of Bethlehem was to be the site of the birth of Our Savior, Our Redeemer, Our King. Of course Bethlehem was no ordinary town. Bethlehem was the site where we read in Genesis 35:19 that Rachel the wife of Jacob was buried. Bethlehem was the place where we read in Ruth 4:11 that Ruth and Boaz were married. And who were Ruth and Boaz? Ruth and Boaz were the proud parents as we read in the end of chapter 4 in Ruth of a little boy by the name of Obed. Who is Obed? Obed was the father of Jesse. And who is this Jesse? Seems to me that this Jesse is an important fellow? But does anyone remember who Jesse is? That is correct. Jesse is the father of the David. And for the purposes of the City of Bethlehem what is important about the fact that King David was born in this small backwater town just south of the big City? Is it because Bethlehem is a neat city to be from or that Bethlehem has a great Hospital? No it is because as God had promised to Abraham centuries before that a great King would arise from his line and would lead his descendants and would make the name of the Lord thy God 1st among all the nations. It is because Jesus who was promised to the people of Israel that a savior shall be born among them in the city of David, the City of Bethlehem. That is what is so pivotal about Jesus Christ being born in the City of David. The City of Bethlehem.


Presbyterian Gal said...

Thank you for this lovely history of the beautiful Bethlehem this year when we need to remember the most.

(Of course, every year is the year we need to remember the most. It's always THIS year that's most important)

Anonymous said...

And don't forget what Beth-Lechem means in Hebrew: House of Bread!

'I am the bread of life...'

God is amazing!