It was Christmas Eve, 1865, and Bishop Phillips Brooks was on a trip to the Holy Land. It was his privilege on this trip to spend Christmas in Bethlehem, the place of Jesus’ birth. He left the city of Jerusalem on horseback on that Sunday and was just reaching dark Bethlehem at twilight. He stopped at the hill which tradition says was the hill where the angels appeared to the shepherds. As Bishop Brooks looked over the serene view of this tiny city, his heart stirred within him. He wrote to his church some time later, “Again and again it seemed I could hear voices telling each other of the ‘Wonderful Night’ of the Saviour’s birth.” This experience stayed with him until three years, when as he prepared for a Christmas sermon, these words came pouring out on his paper:
O little town of Bethlehem, how still we see thee lie!
Above thy deep and dreamless sleep, the silent stars go by.
Yet in thy dark streets shineth the everlasting Light;
The hopes and fears of all the years are met in thee tonight.
In that little town some 2000 years ago, the Everlasting Light did come into the world. John 1 says Jesus: “was the true Light, which lighteth every man that cometh into the world.” Jesus, as God, brought the light of God’s glory and holiness into this world made dark by sin. He was the very life of the Creator brought into Creation.
The words “the hopes and fears of all the years are met in thee tonight” ring true, because this world is tainted by sin, tragedy, pain, sorrow, and death. We are expecially keen to this fact because of recent events. However, in the midst of that darkness there is the Hope that Jesus Christ brings to all of humanity, if each person will accept it. The problem is that since that time men have not accepted it. Is it any wonder that Jesus said in John 12:46 “I am come a light into the world, that whosoever believeth on me should not abide in darkness.” How different our world would be if everyone embraced the Light that Jesus is!
This Christmas hymn goes on to say “O Holy Child of Bethlehem, descend to us, we pray. Cast our sin and enter in; be born in us today. O come to us, abide with us, our Lord Emmanuel.” Let Jesus Christ, the Light of the World, be the Light in your own life this Christmas.