Summary: Christmas Carol Series #3: God’s greatest Gift came: to a little town; through a humble family; as a helpless infant

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O Little Town

Christmas Carol Series #3

(adapted from Michael Luke and Bob Russell)



Christmas doesn’t fall on Sunday very often. Are we the only ones who thought, “Christmas is on Sunday!?! How can we do our Christmas Morning “thing” if we have to go to Church?” Why would we feel like it’s an imposition to go to Church on Christmas Day? How ironic to think of Worshiping Jesus as an interruption to His birthday celebration!

It reminds me of a story I heard about a mother who was running furiously from store to store on Christmas Eve … trying to get those last-minute gifts. Suddenly she realized she’d lost track of her little 3-year-old son. In a panic, she retraced her steps and found him standing with his little nose pressed flatly against a frosty window. He was gazing at a Manger Scene.

When he heard his mother call his name, he turned and shouted in innocent glee: “Look Mommy! It’s JESUS! Baby Jesus is in the hay !”

The harried mom grabbed his arm and jerked him away, snapping, “We don’t have time for all that! Can’t you see that Mommy’s trying to get ready for Christmas!?!”

It’s easy to see the humor in that Mom’s statement. But how many of us felt the same way about Christmas this year? When you think about it, what could be more appropriate than meeting together on the morning of His Birth to sing Carols of Praise with other Believers?

Today I want to talk about one of the Christmas carols we sang this morning. It was 1865 when a well-known American Preacher named Phillips Brooks made a trip to the Holy Land. Years earlier --- in his mid-20’s ---Brooks had become pastor of the Holy Trinity Church in Philadelphia. He recruited a salesman named Lewis Redner to serve as his Church Organist. The church grew from 30 to 1,000 in less than a year, partly because of Brooks’ preaching and partly because of Redner’s music.

Brooks gained a reputation as one of the most dynamic speakers of his day. In fact, after the Civil War ended, Brooks was asked to preach the funeral sermon for President Lincoln. After preaching that sermon, Brooks felt so spiritually drained that his Church gave him a Sabbatical.

Brooks made a trip to Jerusalem. On Christmas Eve he rode on horseback from Jerusalem to Bethlehem where he listened to a Choir singing in the Church of the Nativity.

Brooks decided to write a Poem to express how it felt to stand near the place where Jesus was born. He entitled the poem: “O Little Town of Bethlehem.” Later, Lewis Redner, the Organist, wrote a melody that turned the Poem into a Christmas Carol.

The first thing this familiar Carol points out is that Bethlehem was a LITTLE town. You see, God chooses to use SMALL things to accomplish his GREAT purposes.

1. God’s Greatest Gift came to a Little Town

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.

How many of you grew up in a small town --- say… less than 10,000 people? My wife grew up in Dalhart, Texas --- population 6,000. Some of you may have heard of Dalhart, but I bet no one has heard of Hartley. Hartley is about 15 miles out of Dalhart with a population of under 200. That’s the kind of town Bethlehem was. At the time of Christ it was a quiet little shepherding community with a population of about 150.

Well, for you who aren’t sure if you were from a small town, let me help you out. You know you’re from a small town when:

• The city limits signs are both on the same post!

• The local Motel 6 sleeps 6. (You’ll notice is says that in Bethlehem “…there was no room in THE Inn.” Bethlehem didn’t have a big tourism industry.)

• You know you’re from a small town when: You call a wrong number and they supply you with the correct one.

• You don’t signal turns because everyone knows where you’re going anyway.

• The one-block-long Main Street dead ends in both directions. (That’s actually the case in Juneau, Alaska.)

• Driving cars up and down Main Street is a universal High School experience.

• A “Night on the Town” takes exactly 11 minutes. (By the way, if you’re getting these jokes, then you’re from a small town.)

• The New Year’s baby was born in October.

• You have to name six surrounding towns to explain where you’re from.

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James Sellers

commented on Dec 7, 2006

Excellent message! Simple yet challenging. Thanks!

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