Summary: Great things can come out insignificant places. God can use the smallest and weakest to shame the biggest and strongest.
A. I heard about a mother who was running
furiously from store to store on Christmas
Eve … trying to get those last-minute gifts.
1. Suddenly she realized she’d lost track of
her little 3-year-old son.
2. In a panic, she retraced her steps and
found him standing with his little nose
pressed flatly against a frosty window.
a. He was gazing at a Manger Scene.
3. 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!”
a. 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
B. It’s easy to see the humor in that Mom’s
1. But how many of us felt the same way
about Christmas this year?
2. It’s the attitude of a lot of people at
a. They don’t have time for the real
meaning of Christmas
b. Instead they’re stressed out about all the
wrong things and are distracted from the
II. O Little Town of Bethlehem
A. Today I want to talk about one of the
Christmas carols - O Little Town of
B. Phillips Brooks was burned out.
1. He was known as the most dynamic and
inspirational preacher of his time, but he
had lost his fervor and could not seem to
a. In his mid twenties he had become
pastor of the Holy Trinity Church in
b. He recruited a super salesman named
Lewis Redner to be his Sunday
School Superintendent and organist.
c. The church exploded in growth.
d. They began with 30 children and within a
year there were 1000.
e. The next 2 years the numbers
increased, partly because of Brooks’
dynamic preaching, partly because of
2. But then the Civil War came and the mood
in the church became somber.
a. The national spirit was dying, women
were wearing black due to a husband or
son killed in battle.
b. Darkness fell over every facet of the
c. Brooks tried to be inspirational and
encourage his church but it was draining
3. When the war ended he thought the
vitality and joy would return immediately
but it did not.
4. Abraham Lincoln was assassinated and the
pain intensified. Phillips Brooks was not
the President’s pastor, but because he
was such a great orator, he was asked to
preach the President’s funeral.
a. He reached down deep and found the
appropriate words to say for the
moment but later he was so burned out
that he could not rekindle his own
5. So he asked the church for a sabbatical
and took a trip to the Holy Land.
a. On Christmas Eve in Jerusalem, he
mounted a horse and went off riding.
b. At dusk, when the first stars were out,
he rode into the tiny village of
c. The town had changed little since the
birth of Christ.
d. It lifted Brooks spirits to be with a few
feet of the very spot where Jesus was
e. There was singing in the church of the
Nativity, he felt surrounded by the Spirit
f. 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
C. Several years later he wanted to write
a hymn for the Sunday School children
of his parish because he loved the
1. Upon completion of the song, Brooks gave
a copy to his organist, Lewis H. Redner,
asking him to compose a simple melody
especially for children.
a. Redner, a gifted church musician and
devoted religious educator struggled with
developing just the right melody.
1) There were several stops and starts.
2) Finally, on the evening before
Christmas Eve, Redner abruptly
awakened from sleep, grabbed pen and
paper, and composed the present
b. It was an immediate hit with children
c. Popular in US
d. Not so in England until Ralph Vaughan
Williams paired this text with the British
folk tune FOREST GREEN
D. “Not only does the hymn beautifully
describe the little town asleep in the
December night; it also gracefully
modulates from a description of Christmas
into an examination of the meaning of
Christmas: first in its encouragement of
charity and faith, and then into the coming