O Little Town of Bethlehem

O Little Town of Bethlehem

December 09, 2018 | Lisa Degrenia

Passage: Matthew 1:20-23

Micah 5:2 (NRSV)
2 But you, O Bethlehem of Ephrathah, who are one of the little clans of Judah,
from you shall come forth for me one who is to rule in Israel,
whose origin is from of old, from ancient days.

Matthew 1:20-23 (NRSV)
20… an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and said, “Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife, for the child conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. 21 She will bear a son, and you are to name him Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.” 22 All this took place to fulfill what had been spoken by the Lord through the prophet: 23 “Look, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall name him Emmanuel,” which means, “God is with us.”

History of O Little Town of Bethlehem
In 1868, Phillips Brooks (1835-1893), an Episcopal priest, wrote the beloved O Little Town of Bethlehem for the Sunday school children of his Philadelphia congregation. He was inspired by a horse ride he’d taken a few years earlier on Christmas Eve. He’d ridden from Jerusalem to Bethlehem to assist at the midnight service in the Church of the Nativity.

The lyrics are far more than a description of a sleeping Bethlehem on the first Christmas night. They offer the meaning of Christmas itself, God’s gift of our Savior Jesus Christ and our receiving that gift with thanksgiving and hope.

O Little Town of Bethlehem by Phillips Brooks
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 all on earth!

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.

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!

Its Christmas time and I’m longing for hope and home.
Where are you home? Home is

  • a place where you grow up, discover your calling and voice
  • a place of wonderful memories
  • where you spend a great deal of quality time
  • where you are safe, known, valued, belong

In A Chorus Line, three women each talk about their troubled families, then they sing about finding a home in ballet class.
Up a steep and very narrow stairway to the voice like a metronome
Up a steep and very narrow stairway,
It wasn’t paradise, it wasn’t paradise, it wasn’t paradise but it was home

Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz says it over and over again- There’s No Place Like Home

Its Christmas time and I’m longing for hope and home
The world feels so far from home

  • so fast when home is a place of rest
  • so violent when home is a sanctuary, a place of peace
  • so divided when home is a place where we come together
  • so lonely when home is a place where they know your brokenness and still love you

We search for deep relationship in this world and often find disappointment, sometimes even abuse and betrayal.

Then there’s that voice.

  • You are not enough
  • You will never be enough no matter how much you own or achieve
  • If you reveal your true self you will be rejected; you will be abandoned and alone forever

My friends that is not the voice of God. It’s a voice from your past, or the voice of your inner critic, or the voice of the accuser. It’s the voice of sin and shame, not God.

Hear the Good News! God offers us another story, another voice!

Joseph’s dream of a home is shattered when his fiance announces she’s pregnant with the long-awaited Messiah. He decides to end the engagement quietly but is visited by an angel in his dream. The angel tells Joseph, “Mary will bear a son, and you are to name him Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.” And that’s exactly what happens.

God is coming for us. This is Good News of Christmas. This is God’s story of hope and home.

When we place our trust in Jesus, when we say, “yes” to follow him, Jesus saves us from sin- what we have done, what we have left undone, broken state of creation itself. Jesus saves us from isolation, separation, brokenness, disintegration, shame.

Jesus doesn’t just save us from. Jesus also saves us for– for relationship, for redemption (good from the bad), for hope and an eternal home.

Henri J.M. Nouwen, with John S. Mogabgab, in a Spirituality of Homecoming says:
God is not in the distant heavens or in the hidden depths of the future, but here and now. God has pitched a tent among us. Even more than that, God has made a home in us so that we can make God’s home our home. We find our way home by following Jesus.

The story of Quinton’s Moore’s conversion after hearing the story of the Prodigal Sons

Its Christmas time and I’m longing for hope and home
We find our way home by following Jesus

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!

Series Information

The Christmas Story is full of singing. Over the centuries we’ve continued to celebrate with songs of our own, songs born from the joy of Christ’s coming. This holy season, to prepare our hearts again for the coming of Christ, we’ll reflect on the poetry of these meaningful songs.

Other sermons in the series

November 25, 2018

Joy to the World

Jesus is the Savior King. Will you receive him?

December 02, 2018

O Holy Night

How do we know and share the Christian Christmas story amongst all the...

December 23, 2018

Mary, Did You Know?

The faithful question and ponder. The faithful step out in faith even...