18th December 2016

O Little Town of Bethlehem 

“But the angel said to them [shepherds], ‘Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy for all the people. Today in the town of David a Saviour has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord.’”
Luke 2:10-11 (NIV UK)

In 1865, a young American minister named Phillips Brooks was travelling in the Holy Land. On Christmas Eve he arrived in Bethlehem. As the sun set and the stars came out, he passed through a field where, two thousand years earlier, angels alerted the local shepherds to the good news of Christ’s birth. Struck by these humble surroundings, Brooks wrote these lines:
We hear the Christmas angels,
The great glad tidings tell;
O come to us, abide with us,
Our Lord Emmanuel.

Those words make up the closing verse of Brooks’ now-famous Christmas carol “O Little Town of Bethlehem.” What I love so much about this particular song is the way he speaks to the yearning of mankind for the miracle of the incarnation. You see, the name “Emmanuel” is an ancient name for the Messiah and it means literally “God with us.”

For thousands of years, God spoke in dramatic and powerful ways—through prophets, earthquakes and from the Holy of Holies in his Temple. But all of that changed when Jesus was born. Now he related to us in person, as a fellow human being. Think about how incredible that is! The Son of God, who, with the Father and the Spirit, created the entire universe, now inhabited a human body made of bone, muscle, nerves, and skin. The same God who through the eternal Word smashed atoms together and spun galaxies from stardust, now used a human mind and will to lift a hammer and chisel to shape wood—and in doing so, he reshaped human nature itself.

I have spoken before about how amazing it is to know a God who offers us his grace through a relationship with Jesus. But that relationship wouldn’t accomplish as much if it weren’t with another human being. That’s why Christ came as a man. He came to be “God with us,” to share the pain, love, temptation and joy of the human experience, with us—sanctifying and redeeming it all.

So the next time you hear or sing “O little town of Bethlehem,” remember that same good news the angels announced so long ago: that we know a God who is with us and for us. 

Prayer
Holy Father, the story of Jesus’ birth is incredibly simple and humble. And all so that human beings, faulty and broken, can be bought back into fellowship with you. Today many Christians despair at the commercialism of Christmas, how that this by itself masks and obfuscates that simple story. Help us to remember, Father, and to acknowledge the importance of this one single event. In Jesus; name we pray.
Amen
 

Study by Joseph Tkach

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joeandtammyAbout the Author:
Joseph Tkach is the President of Grace Communion International (the Denominational name of The Worldwide Church of God UK), and resides in California, USA.

You are welcome to attend one of our local Church congregations located throughout the UK and Ireland. For details of your nearest local congregation, check on our website, www.gracecom.org.uk under the ‘Churches’ tab, or ring +44 (0)1858 437099.

Contact:
Email: admin@daybyday.org.uk

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