Bethlehem.... though you are little among the thousands of Judah, yet out of shall come forth to Me the One to be Ruler in Israel... ~Micah 5:2
At nearly six feet six, weighing 300 pounds, Phillips Brooks cast a long shadow. He was a native Bostonian, the ninth generation of distinguished Puritan stock, who entered the Episcopalian ministry and pastored with great power in Philadelphia and in Boston. His sermons were topical rather than expositional, and he's been criticized for thinness of doctrine. Nonetheless he's considered one of America's greatest preachers. His delivery came in lightening bursts; he felt he had more to say than time in which to say it.
While at Philadelphia's Holy Trinity Church, Phillips, 30, visited the Holy Land. On December 24, 1865, traveling by horseback from Jerusalem, he attended a five hour Christmas Eve service at the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem. He was deeply moved. "I remember standing in the old church in Bethlehem," he later said, "close to the spot where Jesus was born, when the whole church was ringing hour after hour with splendid hymns of praise to God, how again and again it seemed as if I could hear voices I knew well, telling each other of the Wonderful Night of the Savior's birth."
Three years later as he prepared for the Christmas season of 1867, he wanted to compose an original Christmas hymn for the children to sing during their annual program. Recalling his magical night in Bethlehem, he wrote a little hymn of five stanzas and handed the words to his organist, Lewis Redner saying, "Lewis, why not write a new tune, I will name it 'Saint Lewis' after you."
Lewis struggled with his assignment, complaining of no inspiration. Finally, on the night before the Christmas program, he awoke with the music ringing in his soul. He jotted down the melody, then went back to sleep. The next day a group of six Sunday school teachers and thirty six children sang "O Little Town of Bethlehem."
Brooks was so pleased with the tune that he did indeed name it for his organist, changing the spelling to ST LOUIS, so as not to embarrass him. The fourth stanza, usually omitted from our hymnbooks says:
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.
Excerpt from: Then Sings My Soul, 150 Of The World's Greatest Hymn Stories By Robert J. Morgan
Great message from Beth Ariel - Jacque Isaac Gabizon
O Little Town Of Bethlehem
By Phillips Brooks and Lewis H. Redner
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 giv'n;
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.
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.