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The Story Behind a Christmas Hymn

The Story Behind

A Christmas Hymn



On a December morning 147 years ago, Pastor Phillips Brooks sat at his office desk trying to write a sermon. But the sanctuary choir was practicing their Christmas music and his mind was distracted. Memories of the Holy land he had visited three years before kept coming to him. Bethlehem was a small town outside of Jerusalem where they raised sheep to be offered as sacrifices in the Jewish Temple in Old Testament times. Jesus was born in Bethlehem and He became the sacrificial lamb that was sacrificed on Mt. Calvary (just a short distance from that Temple).


With his thoughts that day going back to Bethlehem, the words of O Little Town of Bethlehem flowed from his mind to his pen and paper.  He couldn’t wait to introduce his new song to his Sunday school children.  He carried it in his vest pocket for days and then gave it to his organist, Mr. Redner. On the night before Christmas, Mr. Redner’s sleep was interrupted by a melody churning in his mind. It was the perfect fit for the new hymn. The next morning, Phillips Brooks introduced the hymn to the children in the Christmas service, and they sang for the first time, O Little Town of Bethlehem.


Phillips was a large preacher, more ways than one.  He was 6’ 6” tall but was also large mentally and spiritually. It is said that he could sing 200 hymns from memory and that when he preached he spoke at 250 words per minute.  He was known for his great love for children and ever making time for them. It is no wonder that he was greatly loved by them.

Pastor Brooks died in Boston in 1893.  A little girl in his church asked her mother why she couldn’t see her “big friend” anymore.  “He has gone to heaven” was her mother’s compassionate answer.  Tearfully the little girl exclaimed, “How happy the angels will be!"

”The third verse of his hymn says:  How silently, how silently the wondrous Gift is given!  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. That is still the message of Christmas.  Jesus is no longer a manger baby, He’s the Savior of sinners. Have you received Him as your Savior? Your King?


Written By:   Shannon Dyess    Date Posted:  12/4/2015 2:11 PM
Number of Views:  2127


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