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