Julie continued looking at the truths in Christmas carols, focussing today on ‘O Little Town of Bethlehem.’ The carol focuses on Bethlehem as the place where Jesus was born (see Luke 2:1-6), a town mentioned frequently in the Old Testament (especially in the book of Ruth and as the home town of King David) and one which acquired special significance through the prophecy of the Messiah’s birth there (Micah 5:2). Birth places are still recorded nowadays, but the choice of Bethlehem as the birth place of the Saviour – not the capital city of Jerusalem – reminds us that God’s ways are different to ours and that He often chooses ‘insignificant’ places (and people!) to fulfil His will (see 1 Cor 1:18-25).
The carol contrasts the darkness of the streets with the ‘everlasting light’ shining there, and this theme of light and darkness is frequently expounded in the Scriptures (see John 1:5, 1 John 1:5). We can be reassured that no matter how dark the world is, and how badly affected by sin, God’s light can still shine through.
The carol reminds us of the need for humility and does not just narrate historical fact. It makes these facts personal in the final verse, inviting us to experience the second birth Jesus spoke of to Nicodemus (see John 3:1-6) and reminding us that Jesus wants to abide with us permanently now.Jesus made it plain that whether we have eternal life or not entirely depends on our response to Him, whether we believe Him and accept Him as God’s Rescuer and Deliverer, or whether we reject Him and think we can manage on our own. We have to make a personal response, a personal choice, to the personal invitation of Jesus.
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.
O morning stars, together proclaim the holy birth,
And praises sing to God the King, and peace to men on earth.
For Christ is born of Mary; and, gathered all above,
while mortals sleep, the angels keep their watch of wondering love.
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.
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.