Summary: Great things can come out insignificant places. God can use the smallest and weakest to shame the biggest and strongest.

I. Intro.

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

Christmas time

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

right thing

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

Redner’s music.

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

worship services.

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

spiritual flame.

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

of God.

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

Savior’s birth.”

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

and adults.

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

Copy Sermon to Clipboard with PRO Download Sermon with PRO
Talk about it...

Nobody has commented yet. Be the first!

Join the discussion