“O Little Town of Bethlehem” by Lewis H. Redner
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 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 the 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 Immanuel!
Dear God, I copied this from a Baptist hymnal from 1956 (this song would have been less than 100 years old then). As I typed it, what I found most interesting was the use of exclamation marks. What does Redner emphasize?
- O little town of Bethlehem, how still we see thee lie! He finds it remarkable how still the town is on that night. Now, he doesn’t know this, but that’s how he envisions it. Just another night in a little town. They have no idea what is happening. How still everything is!
- O Morning Stars, together, Proclaim the holy birth, and praise sing to God the King, and peace to men on earth! The star. Sometimes I forget about how the stars aligned that night to fulfill the prophecy. And through their alignment, they were announcing peace on earth! What does that peace mean? Certainly not between ourselves. But it does mean the potential for peace between all of us and you.
- How silently, how silently, The wondrous Gift is given! Again with the silence of the whole thing. The unassuming nature of the whole thing. Somewhere in town, a woman gave birth. Later in the night (or the next morning), some shepherds would be going around and talking about what they saw, but, in the meantime, the most amazing Christmas present ever had finally arrived and it came in relative silence.
- O holy Child of Bethlehem! Just an emphatic proclamation of who Jesus is and his worth. The exclamation point there turns that one sentence into worship.
- Be born in us today! This verse is the first time Redner brings the song into our modern times and out of the period. This is the verse that gives the pronouns “we” and “us.” We become participants in the story. As we sing, we ask that you not only be born in Bethlehem 2,000 years ago, but that you will be born in us today!
- O come to us, abide with us, Our Lord Immanuel! And this is our prayer. We acknowledge the story. We accept the story. And now we ask that you will become part of our own story. The other verses have one exclamation point each. This one has three. I don’t think that is coincidence.
Father, be born in me today. Cast out my sin and enter in. Abide with me, my Lord, Immanuel.
In Jesus’s name I pray,