The Good News of Christmas
O little town of Bethlehem, how still we see thee lie!
Above they deep and dreamless sleep the silent stars go by;
Yet in the dark streets shineth the everlasting Light;
The hopes and fears of all the years are met in thee tonight.
That opening verse to the classic carol, “O Little Town of Bethlehem” allows us to imagine what it was like when this little town played host to salvation’s birth so many years ago. This Christmas classic was written by Phillips Brooks (1835-1903), who served as an Episcopal priest in Philadelphia for many years. As Phillips visited the Holy Land in the mid-1860s, he was inspired by the view of Bethlehem from the hills of Palestine, especially at night. After his return from the Holy Land, he wrote these lyrics as a poem for his church and his organist, Lewis Redner (1831-1908) added the music.
As you meditate on the first verse of Phillips’ carol, picture in your mind’s eye what the little town of Bethlehem looked like on that night so long ago. Due to the census, it was probably crowded – as was evident in there being no room for Mary and Joseph at the inn. While we might consider Christmas to be a cold weather holiday, in Bethlehem the temperature would’ve probably been much milder than what many of us in America experience during the winter months. And even though the stars were shining bright on this particular night, Bethlehem would’ve probably been covered in darkness by the time the holy family arrived.
Having taken a moment to picture what that town looked like long ago, take a moment now to think about what your life looks like right now. Perhaps you feel as if you’ve fallen asleep in a city that’s shrouded by darkness and that you haven’t seen the light in a long, long time. Maybe you feel as if you’re fighting for space amidst the struggles and sins that seem to be holding you down.
Regardless of how your life looks today, the Christmas story offers Good News for all of us. The Good News of Christmas is that the darkness will not snuff out the light. The Good News of Christmas declares that love has come to defeat the power of sin and sorrow. The Good News of Christmas IS Jesus Christ, the One who’s come to rescue us from sin and lift us to the abundant and everlasting life that’s found through a personal relationship with God.
Just like the carol proclaims, “the hopes and fears of all the years are met in thee tonight.” Whatever your hopes and fears may be, I pray that you’ll be reminded of the Lord’s light and love in your life during this season of the year. And if you feel as though you’ve drifted away from that light and love, may another verse from this classic carol bring you hope…
Where meek souls will receive Him, still the dear Christ enters in.