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 author of this hymn, Philips Brooks, graduated from Harvard University at the age of 20 and proceeded to take up a career in teaching. His first day in class was a disaster and he ran out of the room, utterly devastated. He was soon fired from the post which left him wondering about his future. He wrote in his journal these words: “I do not know what will become of me and I do not care much. I wish I were fifteen years old again.”
Years later, after being ordained in the Episcopal church, he would become the Bishop of Massachusetts and one of the most influential preachers in the 19th century. These days, we remember him for today’s beautiful hymn, which was written in 1868 by Brooks for a Christmas service. The words came to him as he reflected upon a visit he made to the Holy Land and Bethlehem in 1865.
The hymn was written during the time of Reconstruction for the United States. The nation was still stumbling in the darkness of the Civil War and people wondered what would become of their land. Brooks believed that hope and reassurance could be found in the everlasting light of Christ, something that is still relevant and important in today’s world.
Points to ponder
Where do I see Christ’s Light in today’s world? How can I be a vessel of that light in my community?
Prayer: Lord Jesus, You are the Light of the World and we are attracted to Your presence by Your love, grace, and mercy. As we draw closer to the celebration of Your birth, enable us to encourage our families, friends, and neighbors to also look for Your light. In your Holy Name, we pray. Amen.
Today’s image is one of John’s Nativity drawings called ‘Light of the World.” If you would like to view a larger version, please click here.
You can watch and listen to this hymn being beautifully sung and played by Sarah McLachlan on YouTube: