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Carols and Lessons for AdventSample

Carols and Lessons for Advent

DAY 1 OF 5

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.

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.

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.

. . . that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. (Ephesians 3:17)

There is a beautiful story behind this popular carol. Phillips Brooks was one of the most famous preachers in 19th-century America. He was pastor of Trinity Church in Boston for many years and later became the Episcopal bishop of Massachusetts. While Brooks was touring the Holy Land in 1865, he visited Bethlehem on Christmas Eve and stood in the shepherds’ field that overlooked the town, where local tradition said the shepherds were “keeping watch over their flocks” on the night Jesus was born. 

Three years later Brooks recalled that scene in a simple carol he wrote for his Sunday school’s Christmas service. Neither Phillips Brooks, nor his church organist Lewis Redner, who wrote the tune, thought that “O Little Town of Bethlehem” would ever be sung again after that service. But today it is known and loved throughout the world.

The carol breathes a spirit of peace and draws us into the stillness of that Christmas Eve scene. We’re standing in the shepherds’ field with Phillips Brooks, watching Bethlehem under the stars. With him we pray for the “wondrous gift” to be given to us too—that “Christ may dwell in our hearts through faith.” It doesn’t necessarily happen dramatically. “How silently, how silently” our receiving Christ by faith can be, as Brooks exclaims. But it’s real nevertheless.

No ear may hear his coming,
but in this world of sin,
where meek souls will receive him still 
the dear Christ enters in.
Day 2

About this Plan

Carols and Lessons for Advent

Carols are so important to so many of our Christmas celebrations, but often we don't think much about the familiar words we are singing. In these devotionals, David Bast invites us to to reflect more deeply. In this adve...


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