Sunday, December 23, 2012

Ten Christmas Hymns: 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 hear His coming, but in this world of sin,
Where meek souls will receive Him still, the dear Christ enters in.

Where children pure and happy pray to the blessed Child,
Where misery cries out to Thee, Son of the mother mild;
Where charity stands watching and faith holds wide the door,
The dark night wakes, the glory breaks, and Christmas comes once more.

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!
--Phillips Brooks, 1867

The hymnwriter speaks of Bethlehem's dark streets full of slumbering people, unaware of the party happening in the stable. While the heavenly host looked on, a mother, an adoptive father and a few shepherds welcomed the King. They knew the "great glad tidings”—and so do we!

Last year I attended a missions conference. I heard stories of Christians reaching out to victims of human trafficking in the United States. My friend Claudia talked about her ministry to local refugees from war-torn countries. Another lady told of a camp she is starting for troubled girls. We all sang praise choruses and hymns to the accompaniment of a local band of women known as the Chick Band. In the middle of a joyful song, I suddenly remembered where we were—a few blocks from the Las Vegas Strip. Vegas has a reputation as a very dark place (and we do have our share of darkness, as any city does), but here in the heart of Sin City we praised God and listened to reports of His work around the world. We celebrated the Everlasting Light.

Tomorrow is Christmas Eve, but I know this season may not as joyful and bright as you desire it to be. I pray that you will find a glimpse of the Everlasting Life.

photo credit: Fergal of Claddagh via photopin cc

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