I listened to my first Christmas carol of the 2011 Christmas season tonight. “O Little Town of Bethlehem” played on the holiday music channel on the TV. I know it’s 2 days until Thanksgiving, but there is something about Christmas music that sets my heart and mind for Christmas.
This coming Sunday, November 27th marks the first Sunday of Advent; the 4 Sundays that lead up to Christmas. Each one marks the anticipation of the Christ child.
The first Sunday is Hope, second Love, third Joy, and fourth Peace.
“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 to-night.”
Can you hear the hope? Can you feel the fears? How many centuries went by from the time the Savior was prophesied about until He actually came to earth?
Bethlehem was what one writer called a “little back-water town.” It had maybe 200 people living in its city limits– by and far not even a city. It was a small little village where everyone was related in one way or another. And yet, this small, little town was prophesied about some 700 years before hand as being the birth place of the Savior.
Micah 5:2 says, “But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, though you are small among the clans of Judah, out of you will come for me one who will be ruler over Israel, whose origins are from of old, from ancient times. ” It’s like the blessing that comes over the runt of the litter.
The second stanza and the second Sunday; love.
“O morning stars, together
Proclaim the holy birth!
And praises sing to God the King,
And peace to men on earth.
For Christ is born of Mary,
And gathered all above,
While mortals sleep, the angels keep
Their watch of wondering love.”
“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.”
Although the word Peace is not used in the third stanza the is a definite peace that comes into a person’s heart when “Christ enters in.”
There is a fourth verse that I never knew and certainly never sang in church on Christmas Eve.
“Where children pure and happy
Pray to the blessed Child,
Where misery cries out to thee,
Son of the mother mild;
Where charity stands watching
And faith holds wide the door,
The dark night wakes, the glory breaks,
And Christmas comes once more.”
Again, joy is not used in the fourth stanza but doesn’t “glory breaking” just seem like a synonym of joy?
The fifth stanza is Christmas morning in all of its glory. It is the Christ Child. “Oh come to us, abide with us, our Lord Emmanuel.”
“O holy Child of Bethlehem!
Descend to us, we pray;
Cast out our sin and enter in,
Be born in us to-day.
We hear the Christmas angels
The great glad tidings tell;
O come to us, abide with us,
Our Lord Emmanuel!”
When it is time to sing “O Little Town of Bethlehem” in church this Christmas season I will sing these verses with the same anticipation that comes from knowing that Christ is coming, and more importantly Christ is here.
O Come to us, abide with us, Our Lord Emmanuel.