“And they came with haste, and found Mary, and Joseph, and the babe lying in a manger. And when they had seen it, they made known abroad the saying which was told them concerning this child. And all they that heard it wondered at those things which were told them by the shepherds.” (Luk_2:16-18)
Phillips Brooks, Rector of Philadelphia, wrote the words to O Little Town of Bethlehem in 1868, following a pilgrimage to the Holy Land. He was inspired by the view of Bethlehem from the hills of Palestine especially at night time; hence the lyrics.
His church organist, Lewis Redner, wrote the melody for the Sunday school children’s choir.
There is a line from the first verse that almost gets lost in the bigger picture of the song. “The hopes and fears of all the years are met in thee tonight.” Hopes and Fears represent the polar ends of a wide range of feelings.
As we gaze back into that historic moment laid out before us in the Gospels, there we see a most remarkable assortment of figures gathering round about this infant boy. And unknowingly they unite to send a singular message down through the Ages.
We can come together in the presence of Christ.
This is the message of Christmas — kings and shepherds, angels and men, rich and poor, foreigner and citizen, influential and powerless — all ALIKE in one unforgettable moment of Community in the presence of the infant Christ.
Now consider — if the Babe in the Manger was orbed with such compelling influence that He could bring together those who otherwise would have nothing to do with one another, how much more so is this possible now that He is crowned King of Kings and Lord of Lords!
The hopes and fears of all the years were once gathered and resolved in a sacred evening long ago. O Lord, do it again in our world today — for night has fallen upon us, and we need Your light to show us the way.
May the full blessings of that first Christmas be yours on this blessed day, and everyday hereafter through the remaining days of your journey!