Saturday, December 08, 2012

Advent Day Seven: How silently, how silently

"O Little Town Of 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.

For Christ is born of Mary, and gathered all above
While mortals sleep, the angels keep their watch of wondering love.
O morning stars together proclaim the holy birth
And praises sing to God the King and peace to men on earth.

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 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 their great glad tidings tell;
O come to us, abide with us, our Lord Emmanuel!

In terms of pure poetry it is hard to find a carol more beautiful than this one.  I love the images of the  "morning stars ...[proclaiming] the holy birth," the "dark streets," and angels watching in "wondering love."  Silence and stillness are prominent themes throughout, starting with the "silent stars" and the "deep and dreamless sleep" of the city; and verse three emphasizes how just as Jesus' coming to earth as a baby was humble and quiet, His coming into our hearts is also a silent, inner process of His being "born in us."

It's kind of ironic, but maybe also fitting and necessary, that at what is often a very hectic and stressful time of year, a song like this invites us into silence and meekness and receptivity.  I guess the challenge is enjoying all the things that actually do need to be done to make the holiday special -- and at the same time keeping that inner quietness where Jesus can dwell.  I think that's something I may have to focus on this Christmas season.  Reading this carol every day might be very helpful!


  1. My favourite carol. I love both the traditional British tune and the American version :-)

    1. Me, too, Sandy; they're both lovely versions. Thanks for reading and commenting -- glad your favourite was included here!

  2. Jesus is the Prince of Peace, and the peace we find in him is so much different than the peace the world offers. This time of year especially people sometimes seem to go for numbness rather than peace. The Lord Emmanuel brings true peace.

    1. "Numbness rather than peace" -- that is so true, isn't it? I'm tempted that way myself: I pick up my phone and scroll through Twitter and zone out. It is a real challenge not to let that be a cheap substitute for peace.


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