O Little Town of Bethlehem

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

Bethlehem wasn’t where Mary and Joseph though they would give birth when they first got married.  Most of us don’t travel 30 days or so to go sign in live as proof we exist. Nowadays most of us have access to a hospital or midwife in our immediate area.

But God knew.

God wanted there to be no question that Jesus came from David’s line, just as He has promised, so led Caesar to request a census of His people so history would record Joseph as one of David’s descendants.

So Bethlehem entered the stage as the setting for the miracle, get also not quite as one would expect.

We are used to online or phone reservations when we travel from home, so we know where we will end up to rest our heads at night.

Not so in biblical times.

Unless you had direct family in those days, it was first come, first serve.

Traveling with a very pregnant Mary would likely have slowed Joseph down, and resulted in no room anywhere in town.

Except a stable.

Not even a stable/barn by today’s standards, but likely a hole in the side of a hill, or a low built clay enclosure to keep a roof over the owner’s animals.

Not an ideal birthing setting.  Hygiene alone, it must have been very off putting to think of delivering the Messiah into the world as its King in a stable.

There is also no record of a midwife, so both Mary and Joseph might likely have been very panicked, nervous and crying out to God as she began to give birth.

I can relate.  And so could God.

Which is why Christ’s entry was designed so that the every day person would know God had been hearing each and every cry for help.

The Presence came as the very present we needed at Christmas:

Perfectly wrapped for the average Joe.

Perfectly planned as the Promise to come heralded through the Word and by the angels.

The Perfection of God now present in the work of His hands.


God with us.

Born in Bethlehem, announced by angels, snug in his earthly parents arms in a stable.

The Hope for all arrived with less fanfare than we would expect, yet surpassin every expectation we could have for this fulfillment of prophecy and promise.

While Bethlehem slumbered, its Messiah slipped into a stable and began to transform the world!

What a reason to offer Him fresh praise again this season.


Historical Background:

In 1868, Pastor Phillips Brooks wrote the words to “O Little Town of Bethlehem” after seeing Israel first hand.  His church organist Lewis Redner put the words to music.

trusting a teen- Luke

I am the mother of two teens.
The first will become a full fledge adult this January as she hits her double decade milestone, the youngest will turn 18 in February.

I have learned, as well as every other parent, to begin to trust my teens as they matured with age appropriate skills & jobs. 

It is hard, isn’t it, to let go and let them step up to the plate in the beginning, because you don’t want them to fail, nor have to redo the job because it wasn’t done right the first time.

The first time one of my teens drove our car. Their first sleepover. Their first resumes. How they spend their first pay cheques, allowance. Their clothing choices.  Cramming last minute before a major paper or exam.

It is hard to step back and watch them, when you are unsure of whether they will fail, and if they do, what failing will do to their confidence. 

I found that my trust in them helped keep their perspective in check with they failed.  They knew there was love, grace and a helping hand if needed.

As we peer into this week’s part of the Advent adventure, we meet one of the most important people of this amazing story: Mary.

Mary was a teenaged girl, likely 12-16 years of age, engaged to be married (we will leave her groom until next week!)  In Luke 1:26-38, we get a closer look…

Besides being engaged, Mary is an inwardly beautiful Jewish girl  (according to vs. 28, referring to her radiating God’s beauty), and also noted twice in vs 26-27, is a virgin. She lives in Nazareth.

Six months into her cousin Elizabeth’s pregnancy (with John), Mary is visited by the angel Gabriel, who greets her with:

Good morning! You’re beautiful with God’s beauty, beautiful inside and out! God be with you.

Hullo! What a morning greeting that was, let alone delivered by a messenger of God’s! No wonder Mary was “thoroughly shaken”, and “wondering what was behind a greeting like that.”

Gabriel then tells her not to fear, God’s got a surprise for you.

(Now Mary may have heard, being related to Elizabeth, some gossip around the market about Elizabeth being MIA for the past several months. She for sure would have heard about Zachariah seeing an angel in the Holy of Holies, and being struck dumb.  I think Mary likely felt on edge seeing an angel, let alone having one greet her and tell her God has a surprise for her. She may even have been doubting she was really seeing an angel…I would love to ask Mary about this when we meet in heaven.)

The surprise?

You will become pregnant and give birth to a son and his name Jesus.

I think the thought may have quickly crossed Mary’s mind that sure she would have a son after getting married…and then the full meaning of the rest of Gabriel’s words would have sunk in..

He will be great, be called ‘Son of the Highest.’ The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David; He will rule Jacob’s house forever- no end, ever, to his kingdom.

“Okay, God. Gabriel is telling me I am going to give birth to Your son? But how? I’ve never slept with a man. I believe You can do it, I am just curious as to how?”

Notice somehow Mary’s response is not a doubting one like Zachariah’s was, because Gabriel answers the question:

The Holy Spirit will cover you & come upon you. This child is going to be literally the son of God, Holy.

But Gabriel keeps on speaking a little bit longer:

“And just in case you need a bit of proof, Mary? Cousin Elizabeth? She’s 6 months pregnant, despite being old and barren. Nothing is impossible with God.”

And with Gabriel’s reply to her question, Mary responds with an incredible amount of trust in the God who has sent this angel to her:

“Yes, i see it all now: I am the Lord’s maid, ready to serve. Let it be with me just as you say.”

This teenaged girl reveals a depth of trust on God that her cousin Elizabeth’s priest husband Zachariah seemed to miss.

She was able to see the big picture: this is about God.

She was able to see the immediate picture: this is going to happen.

She was going to see the obvious picture: this is happening to me!!

Her ability to trust in His plan is reflective of the trust God must have had in Mary.

Coz you don’t turn over the baby son of God to someone you don’t trust.

God trusts her enough to choose her.

Mary trust His choice enough to agree to her requested part.

I dunno about you, but Mary is not only being shown favor by God choosing her, but in His sending an angel to deliver the news in person.

Extra favor.

God trusting this young woman
who in return trusts Him, as she accepts the role of mother to the coming King.

What a woman she must have been!

The fact that God trusts her reflects however well He knows us, inside and out.

Despite her youth, God chooses Mary.

Her heart chooses Him, and His plan, in response.

Mary may be a teenager, but she shows a strength of character few display. She accepts this gift, the privilege  of giving birth to her people’s Messiah.

She doesn’t question what the path ahead looks like.

She trusts in response.

Not your typical teenaged pregnant before marriage story, is it!

God takes risks based on what He sees in us, not just was we can see on the outside.

As a parent it can take a leap of a faith to help us believe our kids are worth our efforts.

When God chose His baby’s momma, He chose well -inside and out.

May we all have the grace of Mary to say yes when God offers to surprise us with His plans!