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O Little Town of Bethlehem
by Dr. Brad Black 
12/14/11
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O Little Town of Bethlehem

“O Little Town of Bethlehem” was written by Phillips Brooks one of the most famous preachers of his time. His nickname was the” Prince of the Pulpit.” He had many publications, from sermons to helps for young pastors, but is most known now for his Christmas Carol, “O Little Town of Bethlehem.”

The song was inspired by a trip he took as a young pastor to the Holy Land. On Christmas Eve 1865, Brooks took the short horse ride from Jerusalem to Bethlehem. He rode through the quiet streets of Bethlehem then took a short jaunt out to the fields where it is believed the angels told the Shepherd’s about Jesus. From there he rode back to the traditional site of Jesus’ birth and attended the Christmas Eve services.

In 1868, Brooks was back pastoring his church in Philadelphia. He wanted a new carol for the children to sing for their Sunday School Christmas program. Unable to find anything he liked, he penned the words for “O Little Town of Bethlehem.” The poem was greatly influenced by his Christmas Eve three years earlier, as seen in his words.

Brooks gave the words to his organist and Sunday School Superintendent Lewis H. Render and asked him to write a simple, easy tune so the children could learn it easily and remember. Render struggled for a long time to come up with the perfect tune for the carol because he knew it was something special. The night before the program he was woken up and quickly got up and composed the present melody. Render always insisted that the tune was a gift from Heaven. Needless to say, the carol was an instant hit with both the children and adults.


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