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O Little Town of Bethlehem: Christmas Series Part 9

“O little town of Bethlehem

How still we see thee lie

Above thy deep and dreamless sleep

The silent stars go by.” (By Phillips Brookes, 1868)

I’ve never been to Bethlehem, but I’ve often visited it in my imagination. I envision it that sleepy night, loaded with weary travelers slumbering in inns and along the roadside, oblivious to the moment in time of which they were a part, suspended forever in history.

Upon a hillside in a cave that sheltered livestock, a young woman was giving birth. I picture her new husband looking on anxiously as he nervously assisted a kind stranger lady who had some skill in midwifery. While others slept dreamlessly, a Child was born who was destined to save them from their sin.

As he gazed at the newborn Infant, the husband mulled over the words the angel had told him not too long ago. “…the Child who has been conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit…He will save His people from their sins” (Matthew 1:20-21).

High above the dark streets shone a magnificent star, rivaled in brightness only by the Light of the world now sleeping on the young mother’s breast.

Yet in thy dark streets shineth

The everlasting Light

The hopes and fears of all the years

Are met in thee tonight.”

In not too many days, an old prophet named Simeon would declare to the young woman, “Behold, this Child is appointed for the fall and rise of many in Israel, and for a sign to be opposed—and a sword will pierce even your own soul—to the end that thoughts from many hearts may be revealed” (Luke 2:34b-35).

From the little town of Bethlehem would arise One in whom the hopes and fears of all the years would intersect—hope for all those helplessly lost in darkness yet longing for forgiveness, cleansing, peace, and purpose. Such souls clung to the hope of His appearing.

But as Simeon would soon predict, the life of this little One of Bethlehem would also be a sign to be opposed—indeed, stirring the fears of those who dreaded His appearing. Yes, He would break off the shackles of fear from the lives of many, but some, of whom Simeon would soon refer, “loved the darkness rather than the Light, for their deeds were evil. For everyone who does evil hates the Light, and does not come to the Light for fear that his deeds will be exposed” (see John 3:20-21).

Despite those who would refuse to believe, God gave His only begotten Son into the earth as the ultimate gift.

How silently, how silently,

The wondrous Gift is given!

So God imparts to human hearts

The blessings of His heaven.”

The free gift of God arrived with little fanfare; only the woman and her husband—and whoever might have been helping—witnessed the birth of the Redeemer. A small band of shepherds would also arrive a short time after the birth to behold the Infant proclaimed to them by the angel of the Lord.

No ear may hear His coming,

But in this world of sin,

Where meek souls will receive Him still,

The dear Christ enters in.”

Without much fanfare, men and women, boys and girls have encountered Him in moments of quiet desperation, moments of confusion, storm, or turmoil. And as meek souls join those who have gone before by receiving Him still, the dear Christ enters in…and lives of desperation transform into lives of dedication and delight.

What a truly wondrous Gift God has given!


© 2015, Dorothy Frick