Listen to this devotional:
Listen while you read: "What Child Is This"1 (Lyrics)
Ecclesiastes 12:10 – The Preacher sought to find acceptable words: and that which was written was upright, even words of truth! (KJ21)
Psalm 77:6 – During the night I remembered my song. I meditate in my heart, and my spirit ponders. (ISV)
Jeremiah 31:26 – Upon this I awaked, and beheld; and my sleep was sweet unto me. (ASV)
Pastor Phillips Brooks was known as a great orator in his day. Ironically, though, after visiting the actual site of Jesus' birth, he was moved beyond words. For the first time in his life, he was speechless — unable to communicate the real essence of his experience, except to say that it would forever be "singing in his soul". Nevertheless, three years later, while listening to the church organist, Lewis Redner, practicing carols and special music for the Sunday school program, Phillips recalled his journey to Bethlehem and wrote a poem specifically for the children of his parish.
Afterwards, the pastor asked Lewis to create a tune. However, the organist struggled at the piano for hours without any success. Then, just the night before the children were to practice the carol, something remarkable happened — the tune (St. Louis) was miraculously composed! Lewis explained:
- I was roused from sleep late in the night hearing an angel-strain whispering in my ear, and seizing a piece of music paper I jotted down the treble of the tune as we now have it, and on Sunday morning before going to church I filled in the harmony. Neither Mr. Brooks nor I ever thought the carol or the music to it would live beyond that Christmas of 1868.
In relating the story, Christian author, Ace Collins, stated, "Just as Brooks had been unable to find a dynamic oratory to fully describe what he had experienced in Bethlehem, Redner was unable to compose a majestic rhapsody to carry the preacher's simple words." What profound insight!
Musing over this wonderful song, "O little town of Bethlehem," I was reminded of two things. Firstly, renewal usually follows times of hardship, as we seek restoration and peace from the Lord. Secondly, when we surrender to Christ, recognizing that we cannot do anything on our own, the Holy Spirit can work through us in mighty ways.
Perhaps He will visit us this Christmas with a simple poem or song in the night, a message of hope waiting to be shared in a world that's shattered and worn.
Prayer: Father, we praise You for the awesome gift of Your Son, Who humbled Himself and came down from heaven in human form to be born in an insignificant little town called Bethlehem. We thank You for the power of Your Holy Spirit Who inspired a simple song out of the ashes of tragedy and war. May our hearts forever sing with childlike faith, "O come to us, abide with us, our Lord Emmanuel." In Christ's holy name, we pray. Amen.