Singing Our Way Through December, Part Two!

Singing Our Way Through December, Part Two!

I hope you enjoyed Part One of this series as we looked last week at the story behind the song, "Mary Did You Know?"  Today we will be studying the history of a song written back in the 1800's.

Hymns always held a very special place in the heart of Phillips Brooks. As a boy, he along with his siblings, were expected to learn a new hymn each Sunday, and then recite that hymn on Sunday evening to their father and other family members.

Their father carefully recorded in a small book how many hymns each child learned and recited. His father credited Phillips with reciting over two hundred hymns!

The following is written in a biography about Brooks and the hymns which he memorized as a young boy,

"These hymns Phillips carried in his mind often reappeared in his sermons, as he became aware of some deeper meaning in the old familiar lines."

Phillips Brooks was one of the biggest preachers of the nineteenth century.


The man stood six-foot-six!

However, he was also very well-known for his oratory skills and his commitment to Christ as he pastored major churches in Philadelphia and Boston.

At Christmas time in 1865, Pastor Brooks traveled to the Holy Land, which included a horseback ride from Jerusalem, across the grassy hillsides, to the little town of Bethlehem. 

By nightfall on Christmas Eve, he was in the field where, according to tradition, the shepherds heard the angelic announcement of the birth of Jesus! Phillips later attended the Christmas Eve service at the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem.

Something about the sheer beauty and simplicity of that visit stayed with Phillips Brooks even after he returned to America.

In 1868 as Pastor Brooks was preparing for the church's Christmas services at The Church of The Holy Trinity, he was having an exceptionally difficult time finding just the right song for the children to sing.

Pastor Brooks finally decided to write his own words for the song.

Reaching back in his memory from his Holy Land visit, the lyrics he wrote portrayed in words the sights and sounds of that little town of Bethlehem he had visited.

He recalled that visit with these words,

“I remember especially on Christmas Eve, when I was standing in the old church in Bethlehem, close to the spot where Jesus was born, when the whole church was ringing hour after hour with the splendid hymns of praise to God, how again and again it seemed as if I could hear voices I knew well, telling each other of the “wonderful night” of the Savior’s birth.”

Needless to say, from his pen was written a Christmas carol that has become a worldwide favorite,

"O Little Town of Bethlehem"!

Pastor Brooks asked Mr. Redner, the church's organist, to write the tune for the song, however, weeks after he was given the lyrics, they were still in Redner's pocket! He, too, was having a difficult time coming up with just the right music to accompany the words.

The night before the Christmas program, Mr. Redner suddenly awoke with a tune in his head saying,

"It appeared to come down from heaven!"

He put his pastor's words to that tune and the rest is history.

Pastor Brooks had a big heart that endeared him to old and young alike.

There were toys in his office for the many children who visited him. It was a very familiar sight to see the beloved pastor sitting on the floor playing games and laughing with a group of children. 

Phillips never married, but other people's children became like a family to him.

One of God's promises from the prophet Micah is contained within the song, "O Little Town Of Bethlehem",

"But thou, Bethlehem Ephratah, though thou be little among the thousands of Judah, yet out of thee shall he come forth unto me that is to be ruler in Israel; whose goings forth have been from of old, from everlasting."
Micah 5:2 

Praise the Lord for the fulfillment of this promise through the birth of our Saviour, in the little town of Bethlehem!

This is

just another


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Christmas story


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One of my favorite lines from the song,

"But in this world of sin
Where meek souls
will receive him still
The dear Christ enters in"

What a wondrous testament of salvation!

Meek souls receive Him by simply placing their trust and faith fully in the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus to cleanse them from their sins. Nothing more. Nothing less.

When meek souls receive Christ, He DOES enter into their lives personally and forever!

"Father, we thank You for fulfilling the promise which You foretold in Your Word of The Saviour being born in the little town of Bethlehem. The song tells of those in Bethlehem who slept through the birth of Jesus. Lord, I pray for those today who are sleeping through the true meaning of Christmas. May many hearts be awakened to the truth, and by faith, trusting in the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ, come to know Him as their personal Saviour.
I ask these things in The Name above all Names, The Lord Jesus Christ, Amen"


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May God Bless You,



  • Linda

    December 19, 2018 at 3:10 am Reply

    Well, Barb, I have learnt some things from reading your post. I never knew the history behind this Carol! Thank you for doing all the research! Starting to read once more a passsage about the birth of Jesus, something that stood out to me was that the census just happened to be be held at a time near the end of Mary's pregnancy; Joseph just happened to be in the lineage of King David, so he had to return to Bethlehem in Judea for the census. Not coincidences, but an outworking of God's plan and fulfilling prophecies from the OT. Seeing God at work is amazing, isn't it! Sending much love and hugs over to you.❤️❤️

    • Barb

      December 19, 2018 at 2:21 pm Reply

      My dear friend Linda, it is quite amazing the history behind some of these songs. I'm truly enjoying looking them up, reading about how they came to be and then sharing them here on the website! I so enjoyed reading your comment about how Mary and Joseph "just happened" to find themselves in Bethlehem! Don't you love the fact that there are absolutely NO coincidences with the Lord ❤
      Sending you loads of hugs, love and appreciation to your side of the world ❤

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