O Little Town of Bethlehem

A Carol


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.

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 blessing 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 Christ of Bethlehem,
Descend to us, we pray;
Cast out our sin, and enter in,
Be born in us today.
We hear the heavenly angels
The great glad tidings tell:
O come to us, abide with us,
Our Lord, Emmanuel.


Words so familiar in the festive season. A carol which many could sing without reading these words. They were written in 1868 by Philip Brooks (1835‑1893) an Anglican minister from Massachusetts, U.S.A. According to Christmas Carols by Andrew Gant he was devoted to the idea of congregational singing. The tune used in North America is called ‘St Louis’ and it was written by Brooks’ church organist Lewis Redner who wrote it hurriedly just in time for Christmas Eve.

In the U.K. the tune ‘Forest Green’ is synonymous with these words. Vaughan Williams decided to combine these words with the tune of a folk song he heard in the lanes of Forest Green, Surrey, England in 1903.

Here are some verses which may have been the inspiration of the man who penned them;

Job 38:7 When the morning stars sang together, and all the sons of God shouted for joy?

Isaiah 7:14 Therefore the Lord himself shall give you a sign; Behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel.

Isaiah 60:19‑20 The LORD shall be unto thee an everlasting light, and thy God thy glory. Thy sun shall no more go down; neither shall thy moon withdraw itself: for the LORD shall be thine everlasting light, and the days of thy mourning shall be ended.

Mic.5:2 Bethlehem Ephratah, though thou be little among the thousands of Judah, yet out of thee shall he come forth unto me that is to be ruler in Israel; whose goings forth have been from of old, from everlasting.

Matthew 1:16 And Jacob begat Joseph the husband of Mary, of whom was born Jesus, who is called Christ.

Luke 2:1‑20 There went out a decree from Caesar Augustus, that all the world should be taxed...And Joseph also went up from...the city of Nazareth...unto the city of...Bethlehem; (because he was of the house and lineage of David:) to be taxed with Mary his espoused wife, being great with child. And so it was, that, while they were there...she brought forth her firstborn son…And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night.And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them...And the angel said unto them...behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people.For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord...And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying.Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men. And...the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things that they had heard and seen, as it was told unto them.

1 Peter 1:12 Unto whom it was revealed, that not unto themselves, but unto us they did minister the things, which are now reported unto you by them that have preached the gospel unto you with the Holy Spirit sent down from heaven; which things the angels desire to look into.

John 4:10 Jesus answered and said unto her, If thou knewest the gift of God, and who it is that saith to thee, Give me to drink; thou wouldest have asked of him, and he would have given thee living water.

John 1:9‑12 That was the true Light, which lighteth every man that cometh into the world.He was in the world, and the world was made by him, and the world knew him not.He came unto his own, and his own received him not.But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God.even to them that believe on his name.

John 8:12 Then spake Jesus again unto them, saying, I am the light of the world: he that followeth me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life.

2 Corinthians 9:15 Thanks be unto God for his unspeakable gift.

Galatians 4:4 When the fulness of the time was come, God sent forth his Son, made of a woman, made under the law.