Third Sunday in Advent
|Isaiah 61:1-4, 8-11||God's reward for faithfulness||163: Ask Ye What Great Thing I
540: I Love Thy Kingdom, Lord
|Joy in being restored
|216: Lo, How a Rose E'er Blooming
219: What Child Is This
384: Love Divine, All Loves Excelling
554: All Praise to Our Redeeming Lord
626: Let All Mortal Flesh Keep Silence
|John 1:6-8, 19-28||Greater things coming||230: O Little Town of Bethlehem
374: Standing on the Promises
|1 Thessalonians 5:16-24||Being called by God who is faithful||142: If Thou But Suffer God to Guide
578: God of Love and God of Power
Isn't it amazing how a label can attach itself to some things? "Bean Town." That's Boston. "The Big Apple." That's New York City. "The Big Easy." New Orleans. "The City of David." Bethlehem.
This association of labels and places doesn't mean that the labels define the scope of what those places are. Boston is known for many things other than beans. I'm not sure that New York City has ever been closely associated with apples. New Orleans is associated with jazz music and "Cajun" culture. And Bethlehem--The City of David--is the birth place of Jesus Christ.
All of these places naturally attract people to come and see what is so special about them. This attraction must have captured the interest and imagination of Phillips Brooks (1835-1893), the writer of this week's featured hymn. In 1865 at the age of 30, Brooks visited the Holy Land and saw Bethlehem. It is said that this visit inspired him to write O Little Town of Bethlehem, recording verse by verse his understanding of Christ's coming. It describes Bethlehem's special significance in history, Christ's coming for all the earth, Christ's coming for each of us individually, and Christ's abiding presense that remains with us always.
This hymn paints a beautiful and peaceful picture of the place where God's physical presense in the person of Christ began. As you read the words, let yourself be filled with images of the beauty and peace of God's creation on a still, dark night.
|1. 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.
|2. 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!
|3. 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.
|4. 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!
The Lord has come to us. He abides with us. It is a marvel and a miracle. Ponder and enjoy it this Advent.
God bless you--
God bless you!
|Passages suggested are from The Revised Common Lectionary: Consultation on Common Texts (Abingdon Press, 1992) copyright © by the Consultation on Common Texts (CCT), P.O. Box 340003, Room 381, Nashville TN 37203-0003. Reprinted with permission of CCT.|