O Little Town Of Bethlehem – A Christmas Carol Study

With Christmas approaching, it seems like everyday I have another Christmas song playing in my head. In about a week there will be numerous Christmas Carol events playing on the TV, with thousands in the audience singing along. But how much do they know about the songs and their meanings?

It’s a sad state of affairs that most of the people in the audience probably aren’t even Christian, so I wanted to look at what they can learn about the religion from these songs, if they only opened their hearts and truly listened.

The first song I’m dissecting is O Little Town of Bethlehem. Have a listen, read my thoughts, and leave a comment.

Here we go…

O little town of Bethlehem,

As with pretty much every Christmas carol, this song is about the event of the birth of Jesus, who is both God, and the fulfilment of the promise made by God to save humanity from eternal death.

The Old Testament book of Micah, Chapter 5, verse 2, states:

“But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah,
    though you are small among the clans of Judah,
out of you will come for me
    one who will be ruler over Israel,
whose origins are from of old,
    from ancient times.”

This clearly points to Bethlehem – in the district of Ephrathah – as being the place where Jesus would be born. From Genesis 3:14-15, the first book in the Bible, we read about God telling Satan that Jesus would be born and they will battle, but Jesus will win. This all happened shortly after creation, and is definitely from ‘ancient times’.

Although Jesus, Mary, and Joseph, were from Nazareth, they had travelled to Bethlehem because Caesar Augustus had issued a decree that every male of age needed to be recorded in a census (counting how many people there are). As Joseph’s line traced back to King David, he needed to go to David’s birth place – Bethlehem.

In Romans times, Bethlehem also wasn’t exactly a bustling metropolis, so his birth here is indicative of Jesus’ desire to not be seen as royalty by Earth standards.

How still we see thee lie!
Above your deep and dreamless sleep,
The silent stars go by.

With the census bringing many people to the area, it is often assumed that places such as inns (ancient-time hotels) would have been very busy.

Luke 2:7 states: “She gave birth to her first child, a son. She wrapped him snugly in strips of cloth and laid him in a manger, because there was no lodging available for them.”

I don’t know how quiet and still it would have been with so many people there, but it is showing that, despite the human birth of God right there with them, it was not heralded like royalty should be (especially God royalty).

Yet in thy dark streets shineth
The everlasting Light,

Star-of-Bethlehem

The Star of Bethlehem was prophesied long before this night. When the Israelites were leaving Egypt where they had been held as slaves for generations, God led them by a cloud during the day, and a cloud with fire during the night. As the creator, God has the power to change what he created. He did this with the Star of Bethlehem.

It was the Magi (not Kings, and there are no records of it being only three), that saw the star in the sky, and followed it, knowing it would lead to Jesus. These Magi, or Wise Men, were most likely Jewish scholars, who had studied the ancient texts very carefully, and recognised the sign from God that many others didn’t.

“The everlasting Light” is also another way of referring to Jesus, as John recorded in John 8:12: “When Jesus spoke again to the people, he said, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.””

The hopes and fears of all the years,
Are met in thee tonight.

Since Adam and Eve first disobeyed God and caused humanity to be separated from everlasting life with God, there was obviously a lot to fear. But there was also a lot to hope for. As I said above, all the way back then, God promised that Jesus would come and we would get another chance to spend eternity with him.

O morning stars, together
Proclaim thy holy birth
And praises sing to God, the King,
And peace to men on earth.

While it is beautiful imagery to think of stars singing praises to their creator, it’s unlikely it actually happened. However, Jesus was – and is – someone to loudly and proudly proclaim our love for.

Again, when Adam and Eve committed the first sin, they caused the fall of EVERYTHING. Humans weren’t the only ones to suffer. Animals – who were all created to be vegetarians – began to fight and eat each other; the land became hard to work; and with God taking the step back we requested, the lack of perfection caused all of Earth (natural phenomenon) to ‘fall’ into chaos. With the redemption promised through Jesus, all of these would one day be restored to perfection.

For Christ is born of Mary,
And gathered all above,
While mortals sleep, the angels keep
Their watch of wondering love.

Mary-and-Baby-Jesus

This first line is a VERY important one. Note it does not say: ‘Mary and Joseph‘. It just says ‘Mary’. And why? Because Joseph was not the biological father of Jesus. Even a cursory look at ancient texts from the time, you can see that families were recorded by the male lineage, not the female. God chose to divert from that because he was showing yet again that the Earth-way of doing things wasn’t the right and holy way.

Again looking at Genesis 3:14-15, God spoke to Satan, saying:

“Because you have done this, you are cursed
more than all animals, domestic and wild.
You will crawl on your belly,
groveling in the dust as long as you live.
And I will cause hostility between you and the woman,
and between your offspring and her offspring.
He will strike your head,
and you will strike his heel.”

Over and over again in the Bible, there are prophecies that not only talk about an approaching event, but an event at a far away time. The bold and underlined identifiers were added by me to show that God was talking about Mary and Jesus. Jesus would be the foe of Satan, and Jesus was the offspring of Mary (not a man).

How silently, how silently,
The wondrous Gift is giv’n!
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.

This ‘Gift’ is Jesus and his promise of everlasting life with God in Heaven. Being meek isn’t something humans often praise, but God glorifies those who do not boast or ‘play a part’ in the sinful nature of this world.

For those that receive Jesus and proclaim him as their saviour, Jesus and the Holy Spirit will enter us and work in us, and we will get our promised  – though not deserved – reward.

Where children pure and happy,
Pray to the blessed child.
Where misery cries out to thee,
Son of the mother mild;
Where charity stand watching,
And faith holds hope wide the door,
The dark night wakes,
The glory breaks,
And christmas once more.

jesus-loves-children-colourful

During his ministry, Jesus often spoke of the pureness of children: their love and faith. When children come to God and pray to him, it is the sweetest thing in the world.

Jesus came FOR us. He didn’t come to be served, he came to serve. “The dark night wakes”, the darkness leaves when the light (Jesus = Light) arrives.

This is a beautiful song that has a very important message. I hope you liked my ‘review’, and might listen a bit more closely to these songs and praise the birth of our Lord Jesus Christ!

Don’t forget to check out the next in the series: ‘Away in a Manger’ HERE.

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12 Days of Christmas Blogging Challenge

Last one! Credit to you if you stayed with me this long. =)

Today I’ll be continuing the 12 Days of Christmas Blogging Challenge by ScaleSimple.

You can find Day 1 HERE, and Day 2 HERE, Day 3 HERE, Day 4 HERE, Day 5 HERE, Day 6 HERE, Day 7 HERE, Day 8 HERE, Day 9 HERE, Day 10 HERE, and Day 11 HERE.

DAY 12. What are you grateful for this Christmas?

Every night when I say my prayers, I list ten things I am thankful/grateful for. I’ve been focusing on doing it for about a month now, and it really makes a difference in perspective.
With the annual celebration of the birth of our dear Lord and Saviour Jesus coming up, it is a time to remember all the things God has done for us, and thank him for them.
This year, I am thankful for the following (not a complete list):
  • My sister and her fiancée having a safe trip to America
  • My career/work getting on track
  • Health improving (whole family)
  • Able to catch-up with friends a bit more
  • Learning more about God, Jesus, the Holy Spirit, and everything
  • Chatting with new people I’ve met through this blog
  • Brother taking a break from his job to work and relax overseas
  • Being able to teach scripture to kids in schools
There are so many things to be thankful/grateful for, and this is just a short list of them.
What are some of the things you’re grateful for this Christmas? Let me know below, or start your own 12 Days of Christmas Blogging Challenge.

christmas4.jpg

Picture by ScaleSimple

I nominate: This week’s new followers on Instagram.

12 Days of Christmas Blogging Challenge

Today I’ll be continuing the 12 Days of Christmas Blogging Challenge by ScaleSimple.

You can find Day 1 HERE, and Day 2 HERE, Day 3 HERE, Day 4 HERE, Day 5 HERE, Day 6 HERE, Day 7 HERE, Day 8 HERE, and Day 9 HERE.

DAY 10. Favourite Christmas movie or song?

I’ve been waiting for this question. At odd times throughout the year a Christmas song will pop into my head, but it feels different when it’s closing in on December.

MOVIE – 
My favourite Christmas movie would probably have to be Die Hard (1988). I know it’s not Christmas-themed, but it is set at a Christmas party and they do have some Christmas music playing.
TV SHOW – 
I also like to rewatch Christmas episodes of TV shows. There are a few from The Middle (2009-), there’s Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Amends, and any others that pop on the TV.
SONG – 
Choosing my favourite Christmas song is definitely harder. When I was little, my brother, sister, and I used to listen to Christmas carols as we went to sleep. Only this year did I buy a whole bunch of songs off iTunes and really listened to them again.
A few weeks ago I also found a cool band called Pentatonix. They are an American a cappella group that had uploaded some Christmas songs to YouTube.
Two of them made me fall in love with the season all over again.
First we have ‘Little Drummer Boy’:
And here’s ‘Mary, Did You Know’:
What is your favourite Christmas movie or song? Let me know below, or start your own 12 Days of Christmas Blogging Challenge.

christmas4.jpg

Picture by ScaleSimple

I nominate: This week’s new followers on Instagram.

12 Days of Christmas Blogging Challenge

Today I’ll be continuing the 12 Days of Christmas Blogging Challenge by ScaleSimple.

You can find Day 1 HERE, and Day 2 HERE, Day 3 HERE, Day 4 HERE, Day 5 HERE, Day 6 HERE, Day 7 HERE, and Day 8 HERE.

DAY 9. Who will be sitting with you for Christmas dinner?

In my family, our get-together time is at lunch. With my sister and her fiancee getting married next year, I don’t know how long before little kids are added and they are spending holidays away, so I am thankful they will be coming.

My grandma – 93 years old – is having lunch with us, and is always a hilarious companion.
My mum, of course, and my brother has postponed his overseas trip so he can spend Christmas with us.

That’s pretty much it.

Who will be sitting with you for Christmas dinner this year? Let me know below, or start your own 12 Days of Christmas Blogging Challenge.

christmas4.jpg

Picture by ScaleSimple

I nominate: This week’s new followers on Instagram.

12 Days of Christmas Blogging Challenge

Today I’ll be continuing the 12 Days of Christmas Blogging Challenge by ScaleSimple.

You can find Day 1 HERE, and Day 2 HERE, Day 3 HERE, Day 4 HERE, Day 5 HERE, Day 6 HERE, and Day 7 HERE.

DAY 8. Share a local Christmas tradition in your town or country

As far as I know, there aren’t any real differences to how our local community celebrates Christmas. Unfortunately, while a lot of people celebrate it, they don’t seem to acknowledge the true meaning of the day.
In the preceding weeks, there are numerous big-scale Christmas carol events, with Australian singers belting out the tunes (that too becoming less about Jesus and more about Santa and snow).
There are also tours to decorated houses. Some families spend thousands of dollars on Christmas lights and decorations, putting their name in to let people know to come by and take some photos. My family went out looking at them when I was younger, but year after year we were faced with calamities (getting lost, flat tyre, car breaking down, sister getting her hand shut and locked in the car door so spending hours at the emergency room – all of these on different years), so we stopped.
Hopefully more people will let Jesus into their lives and we can have a big Jesus-centred tradition nearby.
What are the local Christmas traditions in your town or country? Let me know below, or start your own 12 Days of Christmas Blogging Challenge.

christmas4.jpg

Picture by ScaleSimple

I nominate: This week’s new followers on Instagram.

12 Days of Christmas Blogging Challenge

Today I’ll be continuing the 12 Days of Christmas Blogging Challenge by ScaleSimple.

You can find Day 1 HERE, and Day 2 HERE, Day 3 HERE, Day 4 HERE, and Day 5 HERE.

DAY 6. Share a fond Christmas memory

There is one story I just have to tell here. While it may sound like a funny little story from my early childhood, it is much to my embarrassment to say that I was indeed older than I should have been. I was probably around 10 years old when it happened.
Although we don’t have a big family, we have an even smaller house, so every Christmas we have lunch out. This year, we were at Sizzler (a buffet restaurant). It was a great atmosphere, with everyone chatting and laughing and gorging themselves on an assortment of delicious foods. Then came the time when someone dropped by. You all know his name: Santa.
I don’t know what about Santa always terrified me (only just getting over it now), but the second I saw him coming, I jumped under the table. Everyone at the table laughed. Thankfully it was a crowded restaurant so no one else saw, but my family make sure to tell everyone, and continue to make fun of me everytime Santa is near.
What about you? What is your fond children Christmas memory? Let me know below, or start your own 12 Days of Christmas Blogging Challenge.

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Picture by ScaleSimple

I nominate: RealMarkLandry, Jay, and EatLiveEscape.

12 Days of Christmas Blogging Challenge

Today I’ll be continuing the 12 Days of Christmas Blogging Challenge by ScaleSimple.

You can find Day 1 HERE, and Day 2 HERE, Day 3 HERE, and Day 4 HERE.

DAY 5. What is on your personal wish list this year?

This is a tough one. When were we little kids, mum would always get us to write a birthday or Christmas list, but as we’ve gotten older, things have changed. Not only have we turned away from caring about presents (we were never that ‘into’ it, but there would be specific toys or games, etc.), but most of the time we don’t even know what we want.
So, talking more broadly and worldly, I would say my wishes are:
  • More people come to Christ
  • Worldwide peace
  • No more cancer and diseases and illnesses

As you can see, I want pretty much what everyone else wants. And what’s better is that I can bring my requests to the one, true, God. The only one who has the power to do something about it. Prayer DOES work, and if you place your trust in Jesus’ sacrificial death and resurrection for the atonement of our sins, then we will get to live in a perfect world in the end.

What about you? What is on your personal wish list this year? Let me know below, or start your own 12 Days of Christmas Blogging Challenge.

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Picture by ScaleSimple

I nominate: Brand of Man, Elan Mudrow, and A Calming Tide.