O Little Town Of Bethlehem

Phillips Brooks - 1835 - 1893

On Christmas Eve of 1865 an Episcopal Bishop, Phillips Brooks, attended services in the ancient basilica in Bethlehem. The beauty of the simple service made a permanent impression on his heart. Three years later during the Christmas season he was asked to write a new Christmas song for the children of the Holy Trinity Church School of Philadelphia. The thought of the little town of Bethlehem and his trip there inspired Brooks to write the complete song in one evening.

The next day Phillips Brooks gave the poem to Lewis Redner, the Church Organist and church school superintendent. Lewis waited for inspiration but none came. On the night before Christmas he woke up suddenly, in the middle of the night, the melody of the song was ringing in his ears like happy bells. He graped the nearest piece of paper and wrote down the now famous melody.

On the following day, Christmas, the little children of Holy Trinity Church sang for the first time one of the most loved Christmas songs.

[Tune: St. Louis, 2nd Tune, L.H. Redner, 1868]

O Little Town of Bethlehem

 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 to-night.

 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.

 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.

 Where children pure and happy
Pray to the blessed 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.

 O holy Child of Bethlehem!
Descend to us, we pray;
Cast out our sin and enter in,
Be born in us to-day.
We hear the Christmas angels
The great glad tidings tell;
O come to us, abide with us,
Our Lord Emmanuel!

 [Phillips Brooks, 1867]

More Christmas Carols

"Silent Night" "Hark The Herald Angels Sing"