O Little Town of Bethlehem

Full Text

1 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.

2 For Christ is born of Mary,
and gathered all above,
while mortals sleep, the angels keep
their watch of wondering love.
O morning stars, together
proclaim the holy birth,
and praises sing to God the King,
and peace to all on earth.

3 How silently, how silently
the wondrous gift is given!
So God imparts to human hearts
the blessings of his heaven.
No ear may hear his coming,
but in this world of sin,
where meek souls will receive him still
the dear Christ enters in.

4 O holy Child of Bethlehem,
descend to us, we pray.
Cast out our sin and enter in;
be born in us today.
We hear the Christmas angels
the great glad tidings tell;
O come to us, abide with us,
our Lord Emmanuel.

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Scripture References

Thematically related:

Further Reflections on Scripture References

In addition to functioning as a prominent site in many OT historical events, significant predictions were made of future importance – see Micah 5:2; Matthew 2:1-8, and the narrative of Luke 2:14-15.

Stanza 2 speaks of “morning stars”, a reference found also in Job 3:9 and 38:7.


O Little Town of Bethlehem

Introductory/Framing Text

The Lord’s grace is sure.
God has looked with favor upon his people
and has redeemed them.
God has raised up a mighty savior
from the house of David.
God spoke through the prophets of old
so that we would be saved from our enemies
and from the hand of all who hate us.
God has shown mercy and has remembered his promises.
—based on Luke 1:68-72
— Worship Sourcebook Edition Two


I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people.
Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you;
he is the Messiah, the Lord.
—Luke 2:10-11, NIV
— Worship Sourcebook Edition Two

What does it mean that he
“was conceived by the Holy Spirit
and born of the virgin Mary”?
That the eternal Son of God,
who is and remains true and eternal God,
took to himself, through the working of the Holy Spirit,
from the flesh and blood of the virgin Mary,
a truly human nature
so that he might become David’s true descendant,
in all things like us except for sin.
—from Heidelberg Catechism, Q&A 35
— Worship Sourcebook Edition Two


The grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation to all,
training us to renounce impiety and worldly passions,
and in the present age to live lives
that are self-controlled, upright, and godly,
while we wait for the blessed hope and the manifestation
of the glory of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ.
Live now in the power of Christ, to the praise of his name!
—based on Titus 2:11-13, NRSV
— Worship Sourcebook Edition Two

Additional Prayers

The following is a guide for extemporaneous prayers. The pattern provides a suggested text
for the opening and closing of each part of the prayer and calls for extemporaneous prayers of
thanksgiving, petition, and intercession.
Incarnate God,
with the angels we sing and glorify your name,
thankful for all that you have given us:
for your presence in the world . . .
for our nation . . .
for our community and its leaders . . .
for the witness of your church celebrating around the world . . .
But today we are especially grateful for the gift of your Son, who gave up his heavenly
home for a manger and a cross so that we might experience redemption, a gift
that neither spoils nor fades.
With the angels we also desire peace on earth, a peace that is broader and deeper
than the end of war. We pray for the restoration of this world, for the growth of
your kingdom, for reconciliation, healing, and renewal. We bring before you our
prayers for
the nations of the world, especially . . .
our nation and those in authority . . .
our community and those who govern it . . .
the church universal, its mission, and those who minister . . .
the local congregation and its ministry, especially . . .
those with particular needs on this holy day . . .
Make your incarnate presence known in each situation, and may we as your servants
be vessels of your peace.
We pray this in the name of the one who became flesh and dwelt among us, Jesus
Christ, our Lord. Amen.
[The Worship Sourcebook]
— Worship Sourcebook Edition Two

O Little Town of Bethlehem

Tune Information

F Major



O Little Town of Bethlehem

Composer Information

Lewis Henry Redner (1831-1908) was born in Philadelphia, where he became a real estate agent and served on weekends as an organist and Sunday School Superintendent.  He spent nineteen years at Holy Trinity church where Phillip Brooks was rector, and is credited with increasing attendance at the Sunday School from thirty-one to more than a thousand.  In 1868 Brooks asked him to write a tune for his new text for children inspired by his recent trip to Bethlehem. Redner composed the tune the night before it was to be sung in worship on Sunday morning. The text and tune were first published in 1894 in The Church Porch, where the tune was named ST. LOUIS, possibly after the composer’s name.  Redner is remembered today because of this one tune that has remained a Christmas favorite.  
— Emily Brink
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