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.
Rector Phillips Brooks (1835-1903) of Philadelphia wrote the words to this hymn in 1868 after a pilgrimage to the holy land. He was inspired by the view of Bethlehem from the nearby hills of Palestine, especially at night. He wrote the text while his organist, Lewis Redner, wrote the melody for the Sunday school children’s choir.
His text fits well with the prophecy of Micah, chapter 5, which predicts the birth of the Savior in this sleepy little town:
But you, O Bethlehem Ephrathah,
who are too little to be among the clans of Judah,
from you shall come forth for me
one who is to be ruler in Israel,
whose coming forth is from of old,
from ancient days.
Therefore he shall give them up until the time
when she who is in labor has given birth;
then the rest of his brothers shall return
to the people of Israel.
And he shall stand and shepherd his flock in the strength of the LORD,
in the majesty of the name of the LORD his God.
And they shall dwell secure, for now he shall be great
to the ends of the earth.
And he shall be their peace.
(Micah 5:2-5 ESV)
I love how God decided to meet all of our hopes and fears by being born not only as a humble human, but in the lowliest of towns.
Next time you think that your life, your worries, your troubles are too lowly or insignificant to matter to God, think of Bethlehem.
Then think again.