O Little Town of Bethlehem


Monday December 17, 2018

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.

“As God's chosen ones, holy and beloved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience.” Colossians 3:12

The text is set in Bethlehem, the night of Jesus’ birth. Each of the four stanzas seem to embody the four words most associated with Advent: Peace, Joy, Hope and Love. The first stanza speaks of peace, found in sleep and starlight. It also promises that, even in oft war-torn regions like Bethlehem in Jerusalem, peace can prevail. This verse also speaks of the persistence of light, within us, and the light of Christ’s love. The second stanza is rooted in Joy, a proclamation of a new birth. And not just any birth, but the birth of our God and King, Jesus Christ. Further, it promises peace to the mortals of the earth. It is very interesting that this event occurs while mortals sleep, meaning that our salvation was a gift given to us, even as we lay safe and sleeping. But it also de- mands of us maturity as we grow from Christian children to our Christian adulthood. Love is the theme of the third stanza. In fact, the love of the smallest and meekest among us. The love that it took for God to send his Son to earth, to suffer and die for our sins. A love, and salvation, in the form of an adored child, that is offered to the even the least of these; the meekest. And, fittingly, it is Hope that rounds out the verses. The hope we live: that one day, the Lord will descend, much like on the very first Christmas Eve, and, until then, can be born in us for the world to witness each day of the year.

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Prayer: Holy creator and sustainer, may this Advent and Christmas be a time where we all embody and share the light of God’s love, and may that light lead, to harmony, honor, and peace, both in our homes and our nations. May the peace, joy, hope and love of our salvation be a light in the darkened places and lead others to the manger, to come and adore our Lord and our salvation, the infant Jesus Christ. Amen.

—Matthew Thomas