Welcome!  Hymns have been and continue to be a real source of inspiration to me.  My desire in this blog is to share special hymns with my readers hoping that the words will minister to them, especially in times of great personal need.  If one of these hymns ministers to you, please take time to leave a comment so that I know that my blog is helping others as much as it helps me. Sometimes I will also provide a link where you can go to hear the hymn played.  So, please join me here each week and sing along as we praise God together.

Sunday, December 24, 2017


TIMELESS HYMNS #13 - A special feature in which every few weeks I choose a hymn that I have written about before, revise and update it, and share it once again because I think it has a powerful message for us.  This one was shared previously on December 21, 2008.

         Some of my most vivid childhood memories are of our annual trips to Bethlehem, PA, on Christmas Eve. I was in elementary school when my grandfather was pastor of a large church there.  Christmas was always celebrated with all of my grandparent's family gathered in their parsonage.  We would travel there on Christmas Eve and, as excited kids, we would always look to see who could first spot the lighted PP&L building in Allentown.  That tall building could be seen for miles and was a sign that we were almost there.  When we finally would arrive we would always find Grandma Wolf preparing hot chocolate and barbecue for the young people of the church who were out caroling.  They would gather afterwards in the parsonage basement to play ping pong and enjoy Grandma's food.  And so I have very special memories of Bethlehem at Christmas.  But the events at Bethlehem in the Holy Lands many centuries before are more memorable to everyone.  After a trip to that Bethlehem in 1868, Rector Phillips Brooks (1835-1893) was inspired by the view of the town from the hills of Palestine and he penned the words of that famous carol, "O Little Town of Bethlehem".  According to the story, Brooks traveled on horseback between Jerusalem and Bethlehem on Christmas Eve.  "Before dark we rode out of town to the field where they say the shepherds saw the star. It is a fenced piece of ground with a cave in it, in which, strangely enough, they put the shepherds ... Somewhere in those fields we rode through, the shepherds must have been. As we passed, the shepherds were still 'keeping watch over their flocks,' or leading them home to fold."  Brooks participated in the Christmas Eve service, writes hymnologist Albert Bailey, "conducted in ... Constantine's ancient basilica (326 A.D.), built over the traditional site of the Nativity, a cave. The service lasted from 10 pm to 3 am." This sequence of events provided the backdrop for Brooks' hymn which was originally written for children. The words remind us of that life changing event that happened that Christmas Eve.  And the miracle continues today ... "where meek souls will receive Him still, the dear Christ enters in."  The tune was written by Lewis H. Redner and he said that it came to him on Christmas Eve and was first sung the next day.  Within the beauty of "O Little Town of Bethlehem" is one of God's promises from the prophet Micah: "Bethlehem Ephrathah, you are one of the little towns of Judah, but from you I will bring a ruler for Israel, whose family line goes back to ancient times." (Micah 5:2, GNB).   The last verse is a prayer.  In fact, it is such an awesome Christmas prayer that we sing it with evangelistic fervor:  "O holy Child of Bethlehem, descend to us, we pray. Cast out our sin and enter in, be born to us today ...  O come to us, abide with us, our Lord Emmanuel."  During this Christmas season rejoice in the truth and wonder of this amazing event that happened centuries ago.

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  

Listen to the music here.      LISTEN

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