Advent 11: O Little Town of Bethlehem

You can sing it the American way, or you can sing it the Ralph Vaughan Williams British way. Or, if you want to add a bit of a rocky touch to it, you can go for the Cliff Richard/Amy Grant version.

The words to O Little Town of Bethlehem were written by Phillips Brooks, inspired by a visit to Bethlehem.

In Matthew’s account of the Advent story, Bethlehem (“House of Bread” in Hebrew) appears in chapter 2. After the brief, factual mention that this was the place of Jesus’ birth, we are told about the consultation between Herod and the religious leaders: Herod was very anxious to discover where the King of the Jews was to be born and he gets his answer as the religious experts dig into the prophecies of the Hebrew Scriptures.

Bethlehem was the city of David. It was here that his Moabite ancestress, Ruth, had indeed found bread (as well as a redeemer, who became her husband). It was to Bethlehem that God sent Samuel in search of David who would be anointed King. And it was in Bethlehem that David’s Greater Son, the Messiah, would be born.

While scholars discuss the exact relationship between Micah’s prophecy (5:2) and Matthew’s quotation of that prophecy, it seems clear that the greatness of ancient Bethlehem lies in its associations with the ruler who would be born there and who would emerge from there as a shepherd, like his ancestor David, of his people.

The hopes and fears of all the years
Are met in thee tonight.

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2 thoughts on “Advent 11: O Little Town of Bethlehem

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