#710. O LITTLE TOWN OF BETHLEHEM (13/12/22)
Leading up to Christmas Day, I thought it would be good to look at 15 of the most popular carols (chosen by Classic FM listeners) and consider the content and what we can learn from them.
A reflection based on O LITTLE TOWN OF BETHLEHEM, number 9 in our chart of most popular carols.
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 upon the earth For Christ is born of Mary And gathered all above While mortals sleep the angels keep Their watch of wond'ring love
How silently how silently The wondrous gift is giv'n So God imparts to human hearts The blessings of His heav'n No ear may hear His coming But in this world of sin Where meek souls will receive Him still The dear Christ enters in
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
IN THY DARK STREETS
The first verse gives us a picture of that first Christmas. In Bethlehem’s ‘deep sleep’ and ‘dark streets’ God is at work. We read in Matthew 4:
‘The people living in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of the shadow of death a light has dawned.’ (Matthew 4:16)
We are reminded that in our dark ‘world of sin’ God takes the initiative and is working. God’s work in the world is not dependent upon our vigilance and readiness. God has plans for the name of Jesus that He will fulfil as that first Christmas teaches us.
MEEK SOULS RECEIVE HIM
The meekness of Jesus is seen in this carol. His humble birth in submission to The Father’s will was true meekness.
Meekness, like humility, is confidence properly placed. Meekness is to trust in God rather than ourselves. Meekness is obedience to God rather than our own opinions. To receive salvation in Christ requires meekness. To admit our sin and helplessness is too much for many. However, the promise stands,
‘In this world of sin, where meek souls will receive him, still the dear Christ enters in.
BE BORN IN US
The Christmas story is illustrative of salvation. Jesus was born in humble circumstances. Likewise, Jesus only enters and gives new birth in the humble domain of a meek soul. As Jesus’ birth was hidden glory, so our new birth seems unimpressive. However, those who receive Christ receive God’s very presence - 'Emmanuel’ ‘abiding with us’. Our new birth is glory hidden but one day to be revealed.
Are we meek? Are we quick to listen to God’s word? Are we quick to obey? Are we kind and patient with others as God is with us? Do we understand that God is pleased to dwell and uplift the humble? Would we rather be like the stable for the true Christ, or like a glorious temple for fake religion?
TAKE A MOMENT TO LISTEN TO THIS CAROL:
COMMUNITY GROUP NOTES AND STUDY
It might be good to begin with notices. Please share from this week’s Church News.
What has God been speaking to you about from your Bible reading recently?
3. Recap of Sunday's message - please share in your group
This study is based upon our carol service on Sunday.
1. THE CHRISTMAS PROBLEM
This is how the birth of Jesus the Messiah came about: His mother Mary was pledged to be married to Joseph, but before they came together, she was found to be pregnant through the Holy Spirit. Because Joseph her husband was faithful to the law, and yet did not want to expose her to public disgrace, he had in mind to divorce her quietly.’ (Matthew 1:18-19)
All of us have problems. Christmas often highlights our difficulties. Jesus was coming into the world to bring great joy, but, initially, all that Mary and Joseph could see on that first Christmas were their big problems.
ROMANS: Jesus is born into a nation that has been invaded and are being controlled by a foreign power.
PREGNANT: Mary, a virgin, is pregnant and not by Joseph her Fiancé! This was a disgrace in their culture.
DIVORCE: He was going to ‘divorce her quietly’ - end their engagement.
STABLE & MANGER: He was going to be born in a stable and manger because they were poor and disrespected. This is far from ideal!
HATED: Herod was going to try to kill Jesus. They are going to have to escape to Egypt and live in a foreign land as refugees.
They had a lot of problems on that first Christmas.
2. THE CHRISTMAS SOLUTION
But after he had considered this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, “Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.’ (Matthew 1:20-21)
For us to handle our troubles with peace, like Joseph and Mary, God wants us to know what Jesus’ name means. His name means 'God saves.'
In their many problems that first Christmas, they are told that joy will come by knowing His name is Jesus.
In the culture of Jesus’ day, names had meanings that you wanted the child to have. God gives Him the name Jesus because that’s what He will be - the Saviour.
3. RECIEVE GOD'S SOLUTION
'All this took place to fulfil what the Lord had said through the prophet: “The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel” (which means “God with us”). When Joseph woke up, he did what the angel of the Lord had commanded him and took Mary home as his wife. But he did not consummate their marriage until she gave birth to a son. And he gave him the name Jesus.’ (Matthew 1:22-25)
In our troubles, to know peace, we have to actually receive Jesus into our lives by putting our faith in His name. We must name Him Jesus - God who saves - for ourselves. Like Joseph, we have to 'wake up' and 'give Him the name Jesus'.
This Christmas, may we give Him the name ‘Jesus’ - may we believe that Jesus is our Saviour and invite Him into our lives.
i. Did you feel that God spoke to you from any particular aspect of Sunday's message?
ii. What are the 'names' or titles given to Jesus in Matthew 1:18-25?
ii. How does knowing the various names and titles given to Jesus help us in our lives?
iii. What other names can you think of that are given to God or Jesus?
iv. How can you grow in knowing God's names better?
PRAYER AND SIV
SIV - Do you have any encouraging stories of sharing your faith?
SIV- Let's pray for those that God has put on our hearts.