Little Town

If I had to pick a favorite Christmas carol, this would be it…

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.

I once thought this song was for children. It seems it was always accompanied by Away in a Manger, but it could hardly be a more different picture of the marvelous incarnation. The everlasting light shines brilliantly in this dark and sleeping town and no one can see it. Just another baby born. What can it mean that all of our hopes and fears are wrapped up in those swaddling clothes? Maybe this song is for children. Maybe we grown-ups can never comprehend it.

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 men on earth!

We, the dull and dead, remain asleep through this impossible night. But angels and stars watch with wonder. Can it be that their creator and lord has come to this? The holy birth. The birth like no other before or yet to come. The birth of God into his creation, putting on our mortal flesh as his royal robe. To be torn and stained as he paid the price of peace for men on earth.

How silently, how silently, the wondrous Gift is giv’n;
So God imparts to human hearts the blessings of His Heav’n.
No ear may hear His coming, but in this world of sin,
Where meek souls will receive Him still, the dear Christ enters in.

Is this the gospel of the Kingdom of God, that Jesus preached tirelessly? The sweet, sublime atmosphere of the presence of God can be made real in our hearts. Ask Jesus into your heart. Do we have any idea what we are asking for? Heaven is not a realm beyond our galaxy, it is the place where God dwells and all things align with his merciful love and favor.This is night and day, the dark world of sin without, the glorious light of Heaven within.

Where children pure and happy pray to the blessèd Child,
Where misery cries out to Thee, Son of the mother mild;
Where charity stands watching and faith holds wide the door,
The dark night wakes, the glory breaks, and Christmas comes once more.

Was the dark world of sin darker that night long ago? Is it darker now? There is more misery today than ever before, if only because there are more souls on this earth to know it. Misery cries out for comfort from the Father. Can the desire of all the nations be born once more? Can their mourning be turned to dancing? Oh, Lord, let your glory break anew, let it remain forever. Come quickly, Lord 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!

Emmanuel. God with us. This word is not about a 33 year visit to Palestine. Yes, he ascended, but he never left us. He has not forsaken us. He abides still, with us in our joys and in our sorrows. The precious first fruit, the seal of our hope, the Kingdom of God is within us, waiting for the day that it will be known to every poor and hungry man. Wipe away every tear, dear Lord!