by: Gillian Ford
Contributor: Ken Brown, Senior Pastor
I ran across this story from one of my favorite periodicals - Homiletics, When Fear Gives Way to Joy, 2018:
What has fear to do with Christmas?
The history of the carol provides a hint. "O Little Town of Bethlehem" was written in 1868 by the famed preacher Phillips Brooks. The Civil War had ended only three years earlier. Yes, Lee and Grant had signed their peace accord at Appomattox and shaken hands on the deal. Yes, battle-weary veterans from both sides had laid down their arms and trudged home. But half the nation still lay in ruins and the notorious Andrew Johnson - by most accounts the worst POTUS the nation had ever seen - was doing his best to dismantle the rights that had been won for the former slaves at such a terrible human cost.
On the home front, north and south, families had been decimated by the carnage of the most brutal war America had ever known. Wives and mothers counted themselves lucky if their husbands and boys had come home lacking an arm or a leg or an eye or shivering with PTSD. They knew he could easily have not come home at all.
In 1868, it gave Americans some comfort to picture the humble Bethlehem stable as the place where hope and fear meet each other - and where hope emerges the ultimate victor.
Fascinating story, huh? 150 years later the creative say this beloved carol uses two words in the same line that seem opposed to each other - hopes and fears is still compelling.
O little town of Bethlehem, it's true that "the hopes and fears of all the years are met in thee tonight." In a matter of days, we will gather to celebrate the good news of the Messiah's birth. May we discover anew, in these days of expectation, that when hope meets fear in Jesus Christ, the lesser fears of this life are vanquished.
Join us Sunday as sounds of the season stir your anticipation for joy to invade your heart. Bring a friend or two, and prepare your life to encounter angels this season, to restore your hopes and calm your fears. See you Sunday!
P.S. Join us for our annual Lessons and Carols Candlelight Service Tuesday, December 18 at 6:30, especially if we will miss you Christmas Eve due your prior commitments to friends, family, and travel.