O Little Town of Bethlehem

O Little Town of Bethlehem

We made our way from Jericho to Bethlehem with great hopes. We would be among the first guests in the Bethlehem Inn, erected by Palestinian Christians. Our guide told us that we would be across from Rachel's Tomb, and not far from the Church of the Nativity. The open market street, not so different from the streets where Joseph and Mary shopped, was within walking distance.

It was night when we arrived at the birthplace of Jesus. There were no lights anywhere. Our bus stopped. The driver and guide stepped outside, and suddenly there were loud voices. Israeli soldiers with drawn guns could be seen in the shadows. I was summoned, as the American host, to assure the head of the guard that we had only peaceful intents.

I had little influence with these young soldiers. We all had to get off the bus and walk up the hill to our quarters. The bus disappeared with our luggage, not returning to Bethlehem Inn until hours later. The problem, we later learned was that days of pilgrimage to Rachel's Tomb was about to commence, and the Orthodox Jews had asked for military protection since the tomb was in the West Bank.

We traveled back and forth from our hotel for four days. On the morning of our departure a Palestinian boy threw a rock at one of the soldiers. The soldier kneeled down on one knee, aimed his rifle and shot the boy through the head. It is still hard for me to sing, "O little town of Bethlehem, how still we see thee lie."

The greater truth about Bethlehem is expressed in the lines, "Yet in thy dark streets shineth the everlasting light. The hopes and fears of all the years are met in thee tonight." Our Advent theme is heard: waiting with a sure and certain hope.

Lord Jesus, as we make plans to celebrate your birthday again this year, help us to remember that you are greater than all of our fears and fantasies. Amen!
O Little Town of Bethlehem

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 men 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 to us today
We hear the Christmas angels
The great glad tidings tell
O come to us, abide with us
Our Lord Emmanuel!

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