O Little Town of Bethlehem

December 7, 2022

O Little Town of Bethlehem                                                               Susie Schnitker

In 1985, my parents gave us our first nativity set. As newlyweds that year, Donald and I proudly displayed it in our home as we continue to do today. Over the years I acquired many other nativities, including a couple that were given to me by my mother-in-law Mary Schnitker. I guess you could say I have a collection since I now have over twenty, each one with its own uniqueness and character and each one being very special. 

Setting up the nativities in our home is my favorite part of decorating for Christmas. Playing Christmas music quietly in the background, I decide where to display each nativity and carefully arrange each figure. I get wrapped up in the work, and my mind wanders to the residents of Bethlehem on that holy night so long ago. 

Oh 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. 

For Christ is born of Mary, and gathered all above

While mortals sleep, the angels keep their watch of wondering love

Oh morning stars together, proclaim thy holy birth.

And praises sing to God the Kind and peace to men on earth. 

How silently, how silently the wondrous gift is giv’n

So God imparts on human hearts, The blessings of his heav’n

No ear may hear his coming,But in the world of sin

Where meek souls will receive him still, The dear Christ enters in

Did the people of Bethlehem have any idea that a young woman was in their village giving birth to the Savior in a lowly manger that night so many years ago? The angels announced the birth to the shepherds but other than that, there was not a lot of fanfare around Jesus’s birth. I think God intended for the birth to be simple and humble. God teaches us that many times it is in the peaceful and quiet moments in life when we can feel his presence. 

The prophet Micah wrote “But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, though you are small among the clans of Judah, out of you will come for me one who will be ruler over Israel, whose origins are from of old, from ancient times”. As the hymn says “ how silently, how silently”, and “no ear may hear his coming”.  Today we recognize the significance of Bethlehem as the birth town of Jesus, however at the moment in time most living in Bethlehem were likely unaware that the Savior had been born. Today, may we always find peace, comfort, and calmness in the silent, unassuming birth that happened in Bethlehem that night. 

Heavenly Father, may we always be present in the silent times, listening and watching for you. With a meek soul let us receive you and allow our dear Christ to enter in. Amen