This is a four-part Advent Season series looking at the history and inspiration behind some of our most popular Christmas Carols. The idea sprang from Pastor Greg thinking about one of his favorites, “Do You Hear What I Hear?” Each week he talks about a different well-known carol. He starts with some historical context on who wrote the carol and where their inspiration came from at the time. Then, he does some Scriptural analysis to see how the lyrics measure up with the Bible and what takeaways the Lord has for us as well.
This is Week One: O Little Town of Bethlehem
After Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the time of King Herod, Magi from the east came to Jerusalem and asked, “Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews? We saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him.” – Matthew 2:1-2
And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; He is the Messiah, the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.” Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel praising God and saying, “Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.” When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let’s go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.” – Luke 2:8-14
So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger. When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child, and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them. – Luke 2:16-18
When King Herod heard this he was disturbed, and all Jerusalem with him. When he had called together all the people’s chief priests and teachers of the law, he asked them where the Messiah was to be born. “In Bethlehem in Judea,” they replied, “for this is what the prophet has written: – Matthew 2:3-5
Then Herod called the Magi secretly and found out from them the exact time the star had appeared. He sent them to Bethlehem and said, “Go and search carefully for the child. As soon as you find him, report to me, so that I too may go and worship him.” – Matthew 2:7-8
When they had gone, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream. “Get up,” he said, “take the child and his mother and escape to Egypt. Stay there until I tell you, for Herod is going to search for the child to kill him.” So he got up, took the child and his mother during the night and left for Egypt, where he stayed until the death of Herod. And so was fulfilled what the Lord had said through the prophet: “Out of Egypt I called my son.” When Herod realized that he had been outwitted by the Magi, he was furious, and he gave orders to kill all the boys in Bethlehem and its vicinity who were two years old and under, in accordance with the time he had learned from the Magi.” – Matthew 2:13-16
On coming to the house, they saw the child with his mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped him. Then they opened their treasures and presented him with gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh.” – Matthew 2:11
GOLD: A precious metal. A gift fit for a king. A symbol of divinity. Jesus is the King of the universe, the King of Kings.
FRANKINCENSE: A white resin that is harvested by making incisions in the bark of a tree and allowing the sap to flow out. It has a strong and beautiful scent, especially when burned. It was often used in worship. A symbol of holiness and righteousness. A gift fit for a priest. Jesus is our Great High Priest, the Priest of Priests.
MYRRH: Obtained from a tree like frankincense. A spice also used in embalming. Sometimes mingled with wine to make a medicinal drink. It was offered to Jesus on the cross as a kind of ancient valium to help with the pain and stress of crucifixion. Jesus refused the drink and suffered on to pay for our sins, my sins and yours. Myrrh symbolizes bitterness, suffering, and affliction known by the prophets. A gift fit for a prophet of God. The Prophet of Prophets.
Nevertheless, there will be no more gloom for those who were in distress. In the past he humbled the land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali, but in the future he will honor Galilee of the nations, by the Way of the Sea, beyond the Jordan— The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of deep darkness a light has dawned, For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the greatness of his government and peace there will be no end. He will reign on David’s throne and over his kingdom, establishing and upholding it with justice and righteousness from that time on and forever. The zeal of the Lord Almighty will accomplish this.” Isaiah 9:1-7
Jesus: Born on the first night of Sukkot (The Feast of Tabernacles, The Feast of Booths, The Feast of Nations)
Jerusalem During Sukkot: 75 foot tall lampstands lit, visible for miles around. Jerusalem called “The Light of the World.”
Jesus: During Sukkot called Himself the Light of the World as well.
I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” – John 8:12
Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign: The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel.” – Isaiah 7:14
“Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God— children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God.” – John 1:12-13
If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.” – 1 John 1:9
Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in Me.” – John 15:4