This is Christmas week, and I thought it might be worthwhile to spend a moment to reflect on the words to the hymn, “O Little Town of Bethlehem.” It was written in 1867 by Phillips Brooks (an Episcopal pastor from Philadelphia). He had been in Israel two years earlier and had celebrated Christmas in Bethlehem. He wrote this song to reflect on what the night of the birth of Jesus might have been like.
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.
While the streets of our cities are quiet on Christmas day, most likely that day was just like any other day for the people in Bethlehem. But as evening came, the town grew quiet and something remarkable took place.
In the second verse the hymn says, “While mortals sleep, the angels keep their watch of wondering love.” This is just like today. Our world goes about its business, usually oblivious to the spiritual realities around it.
Jesus came into the world quietly. Yes, there was the angelic announcement to the shepherds, but most other people were unaware of the fact that the most significant event in history was taking place. God became a man. But he was born in a stable and laid in a feeding trough. There was no pomp or circumstance as you would expect of a King.
Jesus came not only to live among us but to ultimately die for our sins. He took upon Himself the sins of the world (your sins and my sins) and paid the ultimate penalty that we deserved to pay that we might have everlasting life.
During this Christmas week, I hope you will stop long enough to consider what happened in that little town of Bethlehem. But even more so, I hope you will think about what Jesus did for you on Calvary.