Advent Hymn #2 – O Little Town of Bethlehem by Philip Brooks, 1865
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This week we consider the theme of peace. Christ has brought us perfect peace; something the jews for ages have desired. His blood and sacrifice bring us the true peace that we hope for. The peace that renders our soul free of guilt and sin. However, we often think of peace as quietness, like the little town where Jesus was born.
O Little Town of Bethlehem was written by Phillips Brooks around 1865. He wrote it for a children’s program at church, but it has become a favorite among adults as well. Phillips had visited Israel a few years earlier and took a tour that included riding a horse from Jerusalem to Bethlehem and arriving at dusk. He was so impressed by the little town. So quaint and peaceful. When he sat to write a song for the Christmas service, he was reminded of his time in Israel and these beautiful words came forth.
You will keep in perfect peace him whose mind is steadfast,because he trusts in You.
I was born on a Wednesday.
The following Sunday, I was in church and nearly every Sunday since then. My family was one who found themselves at church every time the doors were open. We also had family devotions … often. Sometimes this was at breakfast, other times, in the evening before bed. Every summer, we attended Holiness Camp .. even though we had a dairy farm to run, these times were not ignored or skipped. But these things, in themselves, did not save my soul. They were instrumental, but I had to make the decision to follow Christ myself. Each person must trust in Christ. Each one must personally make the decision to follow Him. As it is often said,
“God has no grandchildren.”
You cannot enter heaven on the coattails of your parents.
Trusting in Christ Will Cause You to Know Peace.
I think it was Rev Kelsey at Bethany UMC in Canton, Ohio that would end every sermon with a prayer that said something like “If there is anyone who has not responded to your call to salvation, let him have NO PEACE until he does so.” I did not appreciate this prayer. I felt it was an attack on me. Until the day I walked the aisle and gave my heart to Jesus.
During my teen years, a bumper sticker came out that said:
By then I had given my life fully to the Lord and I really could appreciate the fact that peace comes from knowing Christ. That prayer by my pastor has stuck with me and it’s a prayer that I use as I pray for my children and my siblings’ children, “That they may know peace”. I pray that God will give them no peace until they surrender their lives fully to him. I pray that the sin in their lives will become so distasteful that they cannot enjoy it. And, instead, it will recall to them the things they learned growing up. And that they will be drawn to the Prince of Peace.
More Thoughts on Peace
I was recently honored to write about the Peace of God for the Gracefully Truthful Community. Click and follow the link below to read more thoughts on the peace of God.
No matter if times are good or times are bad, there is one thing I need every hour. I can’t imagine life without this one thing. Especially now, as I struggle with chronic pain and my husband is ill as well, I truly need Christ every hour.
I read a devotion this morning about living at peace with others. This “peace” I found interesting and challenging. Very little about the state of our government, factions of people, and this virus says “peace”.
Sometimes I feel like peace means I have to bow to ridiculousness, give in to lack of common sense… I feel bullied.
Do I wear the mask because my governor says so? Will I be forced to take the vaccine because my governor says so? What will be next? Where does it end?
Romans 12:18 “18 If it be possible, as much as lieth in you, live peaceably with all men.”
“Live peaceably with all men”. This doesn’t mean only fellow believers, it’s “all men”. How do I walk this out? The answers are not easy, nor do they come quickly.
In the last two months I have had the same questions posed by two Christian authors “What holds you, the boat or the anchor?” The first time I was going to say the boat, but then I hesitated. I read on and was somewhat taken aback by the answer. What holds you isn’t the boat its the anchor.
The anchor holds the boat in place during peaceful seas or wild seas. While the storm is raging ontop of the water, deep down by the anchor it’s peaceful and quiet.
Anchors are very heavy. Their purpose is to stabilize the boat so that the boat doesn’t drift away. Can you visualize your anchor? Do you feel the weight of the anchor as it is dropped over the side of the boat? As your boat bobs in the water can you feel the anchor centering you?
Sometimes we need to ask ourselves “What IS my anchor? What am I using to stabilize myself in the rough seas of life? Hopefully you can answer that questions by saying “Jesus” or “prayer” or “my bible reading”.
The waters around us are very rough right now. Chaos, upheaval, destruction just about everywhere we turn. Aren’t you thankful for your anchor in Jesus? AMEN
Do you hear the sound of Christmas bells this season? Sadly, 2019 this has been the Christmas song on my mind. I look at the headlines and watch the news. It saddens me that we must be at each other’s throats. We can’t seem to find anything to agree upon. If we do, we don’t dare admit it.
Longfellow wrote this poem in the years of the American Civil War. In many ways, we are again fighting a civil war. Lives are being lost and hate grows strong. May we find peace in Christ this Christmas.
I pray that God will help us find commonality in our lives. In so many ways we all want the same things. I know that true peace will only come when Christ returns to rule the world. I ache for this day. But I also know that God is waiting so that He can save as many as possible.
Do You Hear the Christmas Bells?
I heard the bells on Christmas Day Their old, familiar carols play, and wild and sweet The words repeat Of peace on earth, good-will to men!
And thought how, as the day had come, The belfries of all Christendom Had rolled along The unbroken song Of peace on earth, good-will to men!
Till ringing, singing on its way, The world revolved from night to day, A voice, a chime, A chant sublime Of peace on earth, good-will to men!
Then from each black, accursed mouth The cannon thundered in the South, And with the sound The carols drowned Of peace on earth, good-will to men!
It was as if an earthquake rent The hearth-stones of a continent, And made forlorn The households born Of peace on earth, good-will to men!
And in despair I bowed my head; “There is no peace on earth,” I said; “For hate is strong, And mocks the song Of peace on earth, good-will to men!”
Then pealed the bells more loud and deep: “God is not dead, nor doth He sleep; The Wrong shall fail, The Right prevail, With peace on earth, good-will to men.”
Longfellow’s Complete Poem
Longfellow wrote the poem on Christmas Day in 1863. “Christmas Bells” was first published in February 1865, in Our Young Folks, a juvenile magazine published by Ticknor and Fields.
In 1861, two years before writing this poem, Longfellow’s personal peace was shaken when his second wife of 18 years, to whom he was very devoted, was fatally burned in an accidental fire. Then in 1863, during the American Civil War, Longfellow’s oldest son, Charles Appleton Longfellow, joined the Union Army without his father’s blessing.
Longfellow was informed by a letter dated March 14, 1863, after Charles had left. “I have tried hard to resist the temptation of going without your leave but I cannot any longer”, he wrote. “I feel it to be my first duty to do what I can for my country and I would willingly lay down my life for it if it would be of any good.” Charles was soon appointed as a lieutenant but, in November, he was severely wounded in the Battle of New Hope Church, Virginia, during the Mine Run Campaign. Charles eventually recovered, but his time as a soldier was finished.
Let’s listen for the Christmas bells and find the true peace only in the Christ of Christmas.
Longfellow’s Poem Set to Music
In our hymnals, music by Jean Baptiste Calkin, 1872 sounding somewhat like this by the Spartan Dischords
In Savannah, we all know what it is like to be awakened in the night with blaring horns warning us that there are severe storms in the area. I recall into the midwest that storms and tornado warnings could come upon us quickly as well. Either way, it’s a frightening experience.
Just like in a tropical storm, we have no control of where or how the storms come in our lives. It may barrel straight through us or it might skirt around us. Some storms may be strong and dangerous and others are slow and become just a thunderstorm or even just a bit of rain. One never knows.
Isn’t Living For Christ a Cake Walk?
We would like to think that if we are following the Lord, life’s path will take us through smooth sailing. But this is not true. The Bible says, “In this life, we will have trouble.” (John 16:33) The Promise we do have is safety through the storm.
Oh, how we must learn that God is faithful through the storm.
God Sees us THROUGH the Storm
He will be right there with us, our haven. His path will help us grow and learn. We will be strengthened to face another day. He provides for our every need in every situation. There is Hope in the Hard Places.
We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed
2 Corinthians 4:8-9 ESV
But now thus says the Lord, he who created you, O Jacob, he who formed you, O Israel: “Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are mine. When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you; when you walk through fire you shall not be burned, and the flame shall not consume you.
Isaiah 43:1-2 ESV
Why do we worry and fret and not live in the peace that He offers us? Why do we allow the projected path of a storm to get us all worked up? We aren’t showing the world a reason to follow Christ if we fret and worry over our situation.
P.S. I’ve been introducing the old hymns lately. This seems like a good time to share a hymn…
“There is Peace in the Midst of the Storm”
When the world that I’ve been Living in collapses at my feet And when my life is all tattered and torn Though I’m wind-swept, I’ve been battered I’m gonna cling unto His cross I’ll find peace in the midst of the storm
-by Stephen Adams
There is peace in the midst of the storm-tossed life There is an Anchor, there is a rock to build my faith upon Jesus Christ is my vessel so I fear no alarm He gives me peace in the midst of the storm
Peace in the Midst of the Storm: Performed by The Brooklyn Tabernacle Choir
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