Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Bethlehem, Wake Up!

Phillips Brooks, the writer of the words of the song "O Little Town of Bethlehem," leads us to some deep thinking in the verses from his pen.  The song is one we sing from memory during every Christmas season, yet, like most songs, we only memorize the words of the first verse. 

Last year I wrote some articles on the carols that are familiar to us and challenged readers to look for the deeper messages in the verses of the songs we do not have memorized.  The first verse of the song speaks of the quietness of the little town of Bethlehem.  Here is the paragraph from our previous writings, along with the verse. 

"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."  The residents were lost in sleep and dreams, the streets were quiet. Yet something important and exciting was happening. In a busy little town that apparently had "rolled up the sidewalks" and enjoying a night of rest, the Christ-child is being born in human flesh. 

Read now the next two verses of the song:
"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 hear His coming, But in this world of sin, Where meek souls will receive Him, still The dear Christ enters in."

So the birth announcement of Jesus is proclaimed by the angels. The proclamation is accompanied with praises to God and a prayer of peace.  Jesus is the gift that is given, a gift which delivers into human hearts, the blessings of God's heaven.  To those whose lives are open and receptive of this gift, this Christ enters and dwells within them. 

For the little sleepy town of Bethlehem, this was quite an event. And for the one who accepts the spiritual realities of the human heart welcoming the residence of Christ inside us, nothing can top that event. The message of this song is powerful in its expression of the events surrounding Jesus' birth. That power is available to strong and weak, rich and poor, all races, all nationalities.  Through his Spirit he leads, comforts, directs, and restores.  Bethlehem needed to wake up to all their town was receiving. We, too, need to wake up to Jesus, God's greatest gift for all mankind. 

The final verse of the song is a prayer in which we find our welcome Jesus into our lives.

"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! "


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