Wednesday 2 December 2015

Phillip Brooks' "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."

Phillip Brooks was a 6 foot 6 inch pastor from Philadelphia's Church of the Holy Trinity who could preach 200 words per minute.  One year, he travelled to the Holy Land for a visit.  On Christmas Eve, he rode on horseback from Jerusalem to Bethlehem, the journey that Mary and Joseph took, to preach at midnight mass.  The awesome experience remained etched on his memory.

Three years later, in 1868, the pastor wrote the lyrics to O Little Town of Bethlehem while the church organist, Lewis Redner, wrote the music, to be performed by the children's choir.  Nothing earth-shattering happened at first.  However, in 1874, Rev. Huntington of All Saints Church in Worcester, Massachusetts had the hymn published in his church hymn book.  

While the Christmas song became a popular one in the United States, it was not until 1906 that O Little Town of Bethlehem made it to the shores of England when it was published in an English hymnal.  While the original tune is known as St. Louis, a later tune was used called Forest Green.  In 1922, the carol was published in Hymns Ancient and Modern.(

To listen to O Little Town of Bethlehem, visit

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