Scripture Verse

Bethlehem Ephrathah, though you are small among the clans of Judah, out of you shall come for Me One who will be Ruler over Israel, whose origins are from of old, from ancient times.@Micah 5:2

Introduction

portrait
Phillips Brooks
(1835–1893)

Words: Phill­ips Brooks, 1867.

Music: St. Lou­is Lew­is H. Red­ner, 1868 (🔊 pdf nwc). Red­ner was Brooks’ or­gan­ist at Ho­ly Tri­ni­ty Epis­co­pal Church in Phil­a­del­phia, Penn­syl­van­ia. The tune came to him on Christ­mas Eve, and was first sung the next day.

Alternate Tunes:

portrait
Lewis H. Redner
(1831–1908)

Origin of the Hymn

Brooks wrote about his horse­back jour­ney from Je­ru­sa­lem to Beth­le­hem, where he as­sist­ed with the mid­night ser­vice on Christ­mas Eve, 1865:

I re­mem­ber stand­ing in the old church in Beth­le­hem, close to the spot where Je­sus was born, when the whole church was ring­ing hour af­ter hour with splen­did hymns of praise to God, how again and again it seemed as if I could hear voic­es I knew well, tell­ing each oth­er of the Won­der­ful Night of the Sav­ior’s birth.

Phillips Brooks

Lyrics

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 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.

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.

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!

illustration
Bethlehem, Church of the Nativity, 1886