The story behind O Little Town of Bethlehem!

One week ’til Christmas! Hope today finds you resting in the season, in the hustle and bustle that you will find that peace in Jesus Christ.

Phillip Brooks was a preacher and a Sunday School teacher who stood six feet, six inches tall and weighed over 300 pounds! He made quite an impression wherever he went but he was beloved by his students and those who knew him well. So much so that when he died one of his little ones said, “Oh, how happy the angels will be!”

He had occasion to travel to the Holy Land in 1865 and on Christmas Eve he mounted on horseback and rode from Jerusalem to the City of David. He was to assist in the midnight service at the Church of the Nativity, just a short distance from where the shepherds first saw the star that led them to the baby in the manger.

Three years later, at Christmastime, remembering that experience, Brooks penned the words to this beautiful song for the children’s choir of his church. The organist of the church put music to the lyrics and on Christmas Eve, 1868, “O Little Town of Bethlehem” was sung for the first time.

We don’t know too much about Brooks, although he was a published author and his church did erect a statue of him standing near a cross in his honor. He may have been quiet and unassuming, we aren’t sure. But from the words of the song we know he was impacted by his experience in 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. 
O morning stars, together 
Proclaim the holy birth!
And praises sing to God the King, And peace to men on earth.
For Christ is born of Mary, And gathered all above.
While mortals sleep, the angels keep, Their watch of wondering love.
How silently, how silently, The wondrous gift is given!
So God imparts to human hearts, The blessings of His heaven.
No ear may hear His coming, But in this world of sin,
Where meek souls will receive Him, still, The dear Christ enters in.
Where children pure and happy, Pray to the blessed Child,
Where misery cries out to thee, Son of the mother mild;
Where charity stands watching, And faith holds wide the door,
The dark night wakes, the glory breaks, 
And Christmas comes once more.
O holy Child of Bethlehem! Descend to us, we pray;
Cast out our sin and enter in, Be born in us today.
We hear the Christmas angels, The great glad tidings tell;
O come to us, abide with us, Our Lord Emmanuel!

Bethelehem was about six miles outside of Jerusalem, the birthplace of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Meaning house of bread, it was also the City of David. This is where Samuel, the prophet, anointed David to be king over Israel. Then in the book of Micah, the prophet tells that the Messiah would come from this small unimportant town of Bethlehem!

Bethlehem-hopeinthehealing

By the time Jesus was born, Bethlehem was just a tiny village.

But it didn’t matter the place. It didn’t matter the surroundings, or that those who attended the birth were most likely barn animals. This was God’s plan. He didn’t choose to come with fanfare and crowds broadcasting the news. He chose to come humbly with the host of heaven proclaiming His birth!

You see, it doesn’t matter how little or insignificant we may be, we have the potential to be used for something great in the Kingdom of God!

Just like the little town of Bethlehem, if God chooses us, He will make a way for us to be used and to be used in a big way. Don’t sell Him short!

The city of Bethlehem today? Approximately 60,000 people live in and around the area. It is home to one of the most sacred Christian sites in the world, the Church of the Nativity, circa 330 A.D. It still stands over a cave believed to be the very spot where Jesus was born. Of course this tourist site of one of the oldest surviving Christitan churches in existence today, makes Bethlehem a thriving tourism destination.

True, tourism is not Bethlehem’s destiny. But centuries ago, the God of the universe picked this Little Town for the birth place of the Messiah. And that Child of Bethlehem can come and abide in us today.

That Hope of the World still reaches for the masses and offers life at this most wonderful time of the year!

Share your thoughts with me today!

O come to us, abide with us, Our Lord Emmanuel!

Nannette Christmas

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Pray for peace, people everywhere…the story behind the song.

Another very popular Christmas favorite is Do You Hear What I Hear? Amazingly, this carol was not written centuries ago, nor was it written in Europe but in the early 1960’s right here in the United States.

Some will remember that pivotal time in U.S. history when the threat of nuclear war was at its height and the Cuban Missile Crisis was all that was being talked about.

Americans were afraid, very afraid, and rightly so. Noel Regney and his wife, Gloria Shayne, were two of those that were terrified.

Noel had experienced enough war to last him more than a lifetime. After studying at Strasbourg Conservatory and the Conservatoire National de Paris, he found himself in the middle of WWII and France was overcome by Hitler’s troops. Against his will, he was drafted into the German army.

Regney despised the Nazis, who had all but destroyed his beloved homeland and while still in the German army, he became a member of the French underground. 

Basically a spy, he remained in German uniform, collecting information and passing it on to the French Resistance fighters, warning them of planned German attacks.

Noel never would be able to forget one terrifying mission when he was to lead a group of German soldiers into a trap so that the French fighters could overtake them. Noel Regney was shot but of course survived and the French only suffered minor injuries.

Memories didn’t heal as easily and Noel could still see the enemy soldiers dying all around him, forever embedded in his mind. Supposedly he was wounded purposely by the French in order to protect him from being found out by the Germans.

Shortly thereafter, Regney deserted the German army and went underground with his fellow Frenchmen for the duration of the war. “Only then did I feel free, ” he once said.

After the war, he worked for a number of years as the musical director of the Indochinese Service of Radio France and as music director at Lido, a popular nightclub in Paris.

He moved to Manhattan in 1952 where he met Gloria. She was an accomplished pianist and they married a month later! Noel composed music for many early TV shows and wrote commercial jingles. He wasn’t without the serious compositions though. In 1971 he composed Slovenly Peter, based on an old German folktale. Then in 1976 his five-part cantata, I Believe in Life was completed.

Regney was the composer, Shayne the lyricist and together they had several successful hits including Dominique. But their most famous work was the beloved Christmas Carol, which was in reality a prayer for peace.

In 1962, at the peak of the Cuban Missile Crisis, Noel walked down the streets of New York City, saw babies being pushed in strollers by their mothers and wondered if they would even have a future at all.

pray for peace

“I am amazed that people can think they know the song and not know it was a prayer for peace.” Noel Regney

In this case, Noel actually wrote the words and Gloria put the music to the carol. They didn’t mean for it to be a Christmas carol, but a hymn to peace. It was a prayer echoed by millions of Americans, never knowing from one day to the next if the crisis between Russia and the U.S. would escalate to the unthinkable.

Neither Noel or Gloria could actually perform the song because of the emotions at the time. “Our little song broke us up. You must realize there was a threat of nuclear war at the time.”

Said the night wind to the little lamb,
do you see what I see
Way up in the sky, little lamb,
do you see what I see
A star, a star, dancing in the night
With a tail as big as a kite
With a tail as big as a kite
 
Said the little lamb to the shepherd boy,
do you hear what I hear
Ringing through the sky, shepherd boy,
do you hear what I hear
A song, a song, high above the trees
With a voice as big as the sea
With a voice as big as the sea
 
Said the shepherd boy to the mighty king,
do you know what I know
In your palace warm, mighty king,
do you know what I know
A Child, a Child shivers in the cold
Let us bring Him silver and gold
Let us bring Him silver and gold
 
Said the king to the people everywhere,
listen to what I say
Pray for peace, people everywhere!
listen to what I say
The Child, the Child, sleeping in the night
He will bring us goodness and light
He will bring us goodness and light

 

Today, we are faced with similar threats all around the world. Many fellow believers are giving their lives for the cause of Christ, others are being forced from their homelands all because of their belief in the God of the Old and New Testaments.

Just because it is Christmas time doesn’t mean that everyone is free. Not all Christians will be able to worship the King in freedom and liberty as we are fortunate to do. We need to remember our brothers and sisters around the world and lift them up in prayer as we reflect on the true meaning of Christmas. He came for all of us and He is coming back again for all who believe in Him. Let us not forget to be thankful for what we have and what we know.

And then…

“Pray for peace, people everywhere.”

 

Enjoy Bing Crosby’s rendition of this song which he recorded in 1963, just a year after it was written.

Nannette Christmas

 

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A Thrill of Hope: The story behind O Holy Night

O Holy Night has been crowned with the title “Most Beautiful of all Christmas Carols” because of its superb melody and lyrics. Few would argue this fact, and we have sang it in churches, schools, nursing homes, hospitals and any Christmas gathering that called for it.

Where did it originate? The story is amazing. Placide Cappeau (1808-1877), wrote the lyrics in Roquemaure, France on December 3, 1847. His priest had asked him to write a poem and Cappeau, on his way to Paris on a business trip, received the inspiration for the lyrics to “Cantique de Noel” about halfway through the trip.

Once in Paris, he took the poem to Adolphe Adam, who wrote the music, and the song was performed a few weeks later on Christmas Eve.

Fast forward to Christmas Eve, 1906, where Reginald Fessenden, a Canadian inventor, makes history when he broadcasts the very first AM radio program. Not only do WWI soldiers get to hear a radio program from home for the very first time, but they also get to hear Fessenden playing “O Holy Night” on his violin and then sing the final verse! The beloved carol was one of the first pieces of music to be broadcast on radio.

O Holy Night
O holy night! The stars are brightly shining
It is the night of the dear Saviour’s birth
Long lay the world in sin and error pining
Till He appeared and the Spirit felt its worth
A thrill of hope the weary world rejoices
For yonder breaks a new and glorious morn
Fall on your knees! Oh, hear the angel voices!
O night divine, the night when Christ was born
O night, O holy night, O night divine!
O night, O holy night, O night divine!

Led by the light of faith serenely beaming
With glowing hearts by His cradle we stand
O’er the world a star is sweetly gleaming
Now come the wisemen from out of the Orient land
The King of kings lay thus

Who among us has not felt the joy of Christmas and hope of the ages welling up inside of us when we reach that famous line in the song, “Fall on your knees! Oh, hear, the angel voices! Oh, night, divine! Oh, night when Christ was born!”

Dare we say there are few songs more glorious? The thrill of the birth of the Savior surely makes us want to fall on our knees in adoration and praise! The Messiah has come, the Savior of the World!

O-Holy-Night-hopeinthehealing

“For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace.” Isaiah 9:6.

Let this song bring peace and joy to your heart and mind today as you are reminded of that Holy Night so long ago. Our Lord came for you, for me, and for all who would receive Him. He still opens His arms today and says, “Come…”. The door is still open for a little while before He comes again in all His glory and takes His Church, His people, those that are called by His Name, out of this world and that door of Grace closes forever.

Make sure it is a glorious day!

Nannette Christmas

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