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O Little Town of Bethlehem

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.1

The Holy Land is a place that many of us would like to visit. We imagine how meaningful it would be to walk where Jesus walked and see where he spent time with his disciples who would later continue to spread the Gospel message to others. Putting a visual to something can many times deepen our appreciation and understanding of what we have learned and read in the Bible.

My father-in-law has been saving up for this trip to the Holy Land, and Lord willing, will have this opportunity in the coming year. One thing that we often talk about is how long the flight is. A nonstop flight to Israel takes approximately 16 hours from where we are. Now imagine being called to visit the Holy Land from America in 1865!

This was the case with pastor Phillip Brooks of Pennsylvania. He felt led to visit the Holy Land, which he did in 1865 after a year of traveling by ship to Europe and then by horseback to the Holy Land. Because of the long journey and cost involved, few pastors back then ever had the opportunity to go.

While in Israel, Pastor Brooks was able to visit Bethlehem, and it was deeply inspiring. On the way to Bethlehem, he saw a beautiful town built into the nearby mountain. The homes had breathtaking gardens, and his traveling companions commented how it was the most beautiful town they had ever seen in this area. They saw the fields where people believed the shepherds had received the announcement from the angels and seen the star. In fact, there were still shepherds out there that day watching over their sheep.

Three years after Pastor Brooks returned from the Holy Land, as the Christmas season drew near, he thought of all he had seen while there. His experience resulted in the lyrics of “O Little Town of Bethlehem.” The organist who composed the music to this song said that they didn’t think the carol would live beyond that Christmas of 1868, but we all know how that turned out!

How amazing would it be if, once more, the streets of Bethlehem shone bright with an “everlasting light”? As we sing the words to this song, let us open our hearts and pray for the people who live in Bethlehem today. May the words be a prayer for them and us as well: “O come to us; abide with us; our Lord, Emmanuel.”2

Suggested prayer: Dear God, may the light that shone so brightly in Bethlehem on the night Jesus was born reignite in our hearts and the hearts of those who need you so desperately. Jesus was born to be the Savior… here, in Bethlehem, and to the ends of the world. Thank you for hearing and answering my prayer. In Jesus’ name, amen.

  1. Micah 5:2.

  2. “O Little Town of Bethlehem” written by Phillip Brooks, music by Lewis Redner, 1868.


Today’s Encounter was written by: Crystal B.

All articles on this website are written by
Richard (Dick) Innes unless otherwise stated.