Summary: God's greatest gift came to a small town, through a humble family and as a helpless infant
O LITTLE TOWN OF BETHLEHEM
Sunday January 6, 1850, was bitterly cold in Colchester, England, a hard-biting blizzard keeping most people at home and away from church that day. At a small church on Artillery Street only about a dozen showed up. When it became apparent that even the pastor would not arrive, a member of the congregation got up and spoke briefly from Isaiah 45:22 “Turn to me and be saved, all you ends of the earth; for I am God, and there is no other.” Then everyone went home thinking the day’s service a loss. What most people did not know was that a fifteen-year-old boy had ducked into the church that day to escape the snowstorm, and, hearing the sermon, had come to Christ. The young boys name was Charles Spurgeon. He would go on to become a pastor and have an amazing ministry. He would write;
Don’t hold back because you cannot preach in St. Paul’s; be content to talk to one or two in a cottage. You may cook in small pots as well as in big ones. Little pigeons can carry great messages. Even a little dog can bark at a thief, wake up the master, and save the house. Do what you do right thoroughly, pray over it heartily, and leave the result to God -- Charles Spurgeon
Today we are starting a Christmas series entitled Songs of Christmas. Each Sunday we will be taking one well known Christmas Hymn and looking at the meaning behind the words. Familiarity leads to contempt. Sometimes we can hear something so many times that we no longer hear what is being said. Today we want to take the time to break down the words of the hymn O Little Town of Bethlehem.
In the 1862 Phillips Brooks became the 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. After the assassination of President Lincoln, Brooks was asked to preach the funeral sermon. After preaching that sermon, Brooks felt so spiritually drained that his Church gave him a Sabbatical. So later that year 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, his church Organist, wrote a melody that turned the Poem into a Christmas Carol.
Luke 2:4-7 So Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem the town of David, because he belonged to the house and line of David. 5 He went there to register with Mary, who was pledged to be married to him and was expecting a child. 6 While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, 7 and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.
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.
The first thing this carol points out is that Bethlehem was a little town. All through the Bible we see that God chose to use small things to accomplish his great purposes. Did any of you grow up in a small town? At the time of Christ it was a quiet little shepherding community with a population of about 150. Not sure if you were from a small town or not. Let me help you out.
You know you’re from a small town when the local Motel 6 only actually 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 know you’re from a small town when you don’t use signal turns because everyone knows where you’re going anyway. You know you’re from a small town when a “Night on the Town” takes exactly 11 minutes. You know you’re from a small town when you have to name six surrounding towns to explain where you’re from.