Tag Archives: Bethlehem

We Three Kings

We three kings of Orient are;
Bearing gifts we traverse afar,
Field and fountain, moor and mountain,
Following yonder star.
O star of wonder, star of light,
Star with royal beauty bright,
Westward leading, still proceeding,
Guide us to thy perfect light.

Born a King on Bethlehem’s plain
Gold I bring to crown Him again,
King forever, ceasing never,
Over us all to reign.
O star of wonder, star of light,
Star with royal beauty bright,
Westward leading, still proceeding,
Guide us to thy perfect light.

Frankincense to offer have I;
Incense owns a Deity nigh;
Prayer and praising, voices raising,
Worshipping God on high.
O star of wonder, star of light,
Star with royal beauty bright,
Westward leading, still proceeding,
Guide us to thy perfect light.

Myrrh is mine, its bitter perfume
Breathes a life of gathering gloom;
Sorrowing, sighing, bleeding, dying,
Sealed in the stone cold tomb.
O star of wonder, star of light,
Star with royal beauty bright,
Westward leading, still proceeding,
Guide us to thy perfect light.

Glorious now behold Him arise;
King and God and sacrifice;
Alleluia, Alleluia,
Sounds through the earth and skies.
O star of wonder, star of light,
Star with royal beauty bright,
Westward leading, still proceeding,
Guide us to thy perfect light.

Words and Music by John H Hopkins, Jr., 1857

 


Now after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, magi from the east arrived in Jerusalem, saying, “Where is He who has been born King of the Jews? For we saw His star in the east and have come to worship Him.” When Herod the king heard this, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him. Gathering together all the chief priests and scribes of the people, he inquired of them where the Messiah was to be born. They said to him, “In Bethlehem of Judea; for this is what has been written by the prophet:

‘And you, Bethlehem, land of Judah, Are by no means least among the leaders of Judah; For out of you shall come forth a Ruler Who will shepherd My people Israel.’”
Then Herod secretly called the magi and determined from them the exact time the star appeared. And he sent them to Bethlehem and said, “Go and search carefully for the Child; and when you have found Him, report to me, so that I too may come and worship Him.” After hearing the king, they went their way; and the star, which they had seen in the east, went on before them until it came and stood over the place where the Child was. When they saw the star, they rejoiced exceedingly with great joy. After coming into the house they saw the Child with Mary His mother; and they fell to the ground and worshiped Him. Then, opening their treasures, they presented to Him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh. And having been warned by God in a dream not to return to Herod, the magi left for their own country by another way.
Matthew 2:1 – 12

Therefore Pilate said to Him, “So You are a king?” Jesus answered, “You say correctly that I am a king For this I have been born, and for this I have come into the world, to testify to the truth Everyone who is of the truth hears My voice.”
John 18:37

Then the Lord said to Moses, “Take for yourself spices, stacte and onycha and galbanum, spices with pure frankincense; there shall be an equal part of each.”
Exodus 30:34

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.
Isaiah 9:6

The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.
John 1:14

Later, Joseph of Arimathea asked Pilate for the body of Jesus. Now Joseph was a disciple of Jesus, but secretly because he feared the Jewish leaders. With Pilate’s permission, he came and took the body away. He was accompanied by Nicodemus, the man who earlier had visited Jesus at night. Nicodemus brought a mixture of myrrh and aloes, about seventy-five pounds. Taking Jesus’ body, the two of them wrapped it, with the spices, in strips of linen. This was in accordance with Jewish burial customs.
John 19:38 – 40

For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many
Mark 10:45

But Christ has indeed been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. For since death came through a man, the resurrection of the dead comes also through a man.
1 Corinthians 15:20 – 21


 

January 6 is a holiday that is not necessarily recognized by time off like Christmas, but around the world it is a holiday that has played a great role in the history of Christendom. In the Eastern Orthodox tradition it is Christmas Eve. The night leading into the Feast of the Nativity. But for the western churches, both Catholic and Protestant, who changed from the use of the Julian Calendar to the Gregorian Calendar it represents Epiphany (The revelation of Christ to the gentile world). This revelation is represented in the visit of the Magi to Jesus as recorded in Matthew 2, which Leads to the other name it is known by, Three Kings Day. But it is the truth of this revelation, of this visit that is found in John H. Hopkins, Jr.’s hymn, “We Three Kings.”

The hymn begins with the words, “We three kings of Orient are.” Now the exact origin of the Magi is not given but we find in Matthew 2:2 that the Magi said to the palace officials “Where is He who has been born King of the Jews? For we saw His star in the east and have come to worship Him.”

The Magi came from a land to the east of Israel, where they had been when they had seen the star when it appeared. Quite likely, they were from somewhere in Persia as the name Magi comes from a Persian word that refers to Zoroastrian priest or astrologers. People who would have been considered wise and learned in their lands.

The hymn continues by discussing that they had traveled a great distance, “Following yonder star.” This is a direct reference to Matthew 2:9 which tells us that “After hearing the king, they went their way; and the star, which they had seen in the east, went on before them until it came and stood over the place where the Child was.” This star had guided them to Jesus from their homeland all the way to Bethlehem. (Matthew 2:5 – 6)

The hymn goes on to discuss the three gifts, gold, frankincense and myrrh, (Matthew 2:11) which the Magi brought to give to this new-born King of the Jews. (Matthew 2:2) These gifts where items worthy of a King. Each having a great value and importance. But beyond the initial meaning can be found a deeper symbolic and spiritual meaning for who Jesus was and what he would do.

First the hymns says, “Born a King on Bethlehem’s plain, Gold I bring to crown Him again.” Jesus was and is a King. John 18:37, tells us that in Jesus final days, “Pilate said to Him, ‘So You are a king?’ Jesus answered, “You say correctly that I am a king.” By his own testimony, Jesus identified himself as a King. A truth that was revealed to the Magi, when they saw the star. The Gold therefore serves as a reminder of Christ sovereignty.

The hymn goes on to say, “Frankincense to offer have I; Incense owns a Deity nigh.” Frankincense was an incense used in many religious ceremonies. We read in Exodus 30:34 that the Lord told Moses, “Take for yourself spices, stacte and onycha and galbanum, spices with pure frankincense; there shall be an equal part of each.” Frankincense was used to worship God and here can serve to remind us that he was not simply a King, but was God himself. A truth that was prophesied in Isaiah 9:6 where we read, “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.” God himself had come into the world to dwell among us. (John 1:14)

The hymn goes on to say, “Myrrh is mine, its bitter perfume. Breathes a life of gathering gloom. Sorrowing, sighing, bleeding, dying, Sealed in the stone cold tomb.” Myrrh was used in ancient times for a variety of reasons; as a perfume, and anointing oil and for embalming.” We find it specifically mentioned later on in relation to Jesus burial when we read in John 19:39 – 40, “Nicodemus brought a mixture of myrrh and aloes, about seventy-five pounds. Taking Jesus’ body, the two of them wrapped it, with the spices, in strips of linen.” From the gift of myrrh we find a reminder of why Christ had come. He came into the world “to give his life as a ransom for many.” (Mark 10:45) He came to die in our place.

The hymn concludes by looking forward to the glory that Jesus would one day embody. It says, “Glorious now behold Him arise; King and God and sacrifice.” We are remind that this Child was God-With-us, that he was born a King and that he would sacrifice his life for all who believe. This Jesus would rise glorious and triumphant over sin and death. As 1 Corinthians 15:20 – 21 tells us, “Christ has indeed been raised from the dead.”

“King and God and Sacrifice.” Those who know him, call him each of these. Those who believe in him understand that he alone can open the door to forgiveness. So we seek after him, to know him more and more. So we cry out to him to “Guide us to thy perfect light.”

 

 

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O Come, All Ye Faithful

O come, all ye faithful, joyful and triumphant,
O come ye, O come ye, to Bethlehem.
Come and behold Him, born the King of angels;
O come, let us adore Him,
O come, let us adore Him,
O come, let us adore Him,
Christ the Lord.

True God of true God, Light from Light Eternal,
Lo, He shuns not the Virgin’s womb;
Son of the Father, begotten, not created;
O come, let us adore Him,
O come, let us adore Him,
O come, let us adore Him,
Christ the Lord.

Sing, choirs of angels, sing in exultation;
O sing, all ye citizens of heaven above!
Glory to God, all glory in the highest;
O come, let us adore Him,
O come, let us adore Him,
O come, let us adore Him,
Christ the Lord.

See how the shepherds, summoned to His cradle,
Leaving their flocks, draw nigh to gaze;
We too will thither bend our joyful footsteps;
O come, let us adore Him,
O come, let us adore Him,
O come, let us adore Him,
Christ the Lord.

Lo! star led chieftains, Magi, Christ adoring,
Offer Him incense, gold, and myrrh;
We to the Christ Child bring our hearts’ oblations.
O come, let us adore Him,
O come, let us adore Him,
O come, let us adore Him,
Christ the Lord.

Child, for us sinners poor and in the manger,
We would embrace Thee, with love and awe;
Who would not love Thee, loving us so dearly?
O come, let us adore Him,
O come, let us adore Him,
O come, let us adore Him,
Christ the Lord.

Yea, Lord, we greet Thee, born this happy morning;
Jesus, to Thee be glory given;
Word of the Father, now in flesh appearing.
O come, let us adore Him,
O come, let us adore Him,
O come, let us adore Him,
Christ the Lord.

Words by John F. Wade, ca 1743
Music by Uncertain (attributed to John Wade, John Reading or Simoa Portogallo)

 


In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came into being through Him, and apart from Him nothing came into being that has come into being. In Him was life, and the life was the Light of men. The Light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it. . .
There was the true Light which, coming into the world, enlightens every man. He was in the world, and the world was made through Him, and the world did not know Him. He came to His own, and those who were His own did not receive Him. But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, even to those who believe in His name, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God. And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us, and we saw His glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth.
John 1:1 -5, 9 – 14

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.”
Luke 2:13 – 14

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.” 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. But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart. The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen, which were just as they had been told.
Luke 2:15 – 20

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.” . . .
After they had heard the king, they went on their way, and the star they had seen when it rose went ahead of them until it stopped over the place where the child was. When they saw the star, they were overjoyed. 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 2:1 – 2, 9 – 11


 

When you get married one of the first big things you have to do is decide who you are going to invite to the wedding.  How wide do you spread the net?  Do you invite your parents second cousin once removed or do you just keep it to immediate family?  Do you invite your childhood best friend that you have not seen in 20 years or do you just invite the people currently in your life? These are the decisions that have to be made and it is up to each couple to do as they see fit (and can afford to feed at the reception).  Whatever  the decision, once you are done with the list you have to address and stamp all the invitations to go out.  Finally you need to wait for the responses so you can find out who is coming.

In John Wade’s “O Come, All Ye Faithful” we are given an invitation, not to a wedding, but to meet Christ. An invitation that is given to all, but only those who respond can know the child in the manger.

So Wade gives us an invitation containing all the necessary information. Who is invited? “all ye faithful.” Where are they going? “to Bethlehem.” Why are they going? to “behold Him, born the King of angels.” The hymn then continues by presenting us with a further description of the child we are called to see when it reads, “True God of true God, Light from Light Eternal . . . Son of the Father, begotten, not created.” (John 1:5, 9, 14) This child we are called to see, is the eternal God made flesh.

Now the hymn changes its focus from an invitation to present the response of the three groups presented in scripture concerning the birth of Christ.  The first group is the Angels who in Luke 2:13 – 14 declared, “Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.”

We then move on to the Shepherds who Luke 2:15 – 17 and 20 tells us that “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.” 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 . . . The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen, which were just as they had been told.

The third group is then the Magi who came later to see Jesus as we are told in Mathew 2:1 – 2 and 9 – 11  where we read”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.” . . .
After they had heard the king, they went on their way, and the star they had seen when it rose went ahead of them until it stopped over the place where the child was. When they saw the star, they were overjoyed. 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.

Each of those who responded to the call could do nothing less than worship and glorify the child, the new born King.  So Wade next turn the lens upon us and how we will respond. Will we come to the child who was born “for us sinners poor and in the manger”? Surely “we would embrace Thee, with love and awe” for “who would not love Thee, loving us so dearly?” Christ came into the world to open the door that sinners could be redeemed. In love he would “lay down one’s life for one’s friends. (John 15:13)

The invitation has been sent to each and every one of us to celebrate the child born in Bethlehem, the Savior of the world. May each of us choose to respond to the invitation with joy and faith. When we truly come to know him we can join in the words of the hymn, “O come, let us adore Him, Christ the Lord.”

 

 

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For that Child . . . Is our Lord in Heav’n

Once in royal David’s city
Stood a lowly cattle shed,
Where a mother laid her Baby
In a manger for His bed:
Mary was that mother mild,
Jesus Christ her little Child.

He came down to earth from Heaven,
Who is God and Lord of all,
And His shelter was a stable,
And His cradle was a stall;
With the poor, and mean, and lowly,
Lived on earth our Savior holy.

And, through all His wondrous childhood,
He would honor and obey,
Love and watch the lowly maiden,
In whose gentle arms He lay:
Christian children all must be
Mild, obedient, good as He.

For He is our childhood’s pattern;
Day by day, like us He grew;
He was little, weak and helpless,
Tears and smiles like us He knew;
And He feeleth for our sadness,
And He shareth in our gladness.

And our eyes at last shall see Him,
Through His own redeeming love,
For that Child so dear and gentle
Is our Lord in Heav’n above,
And He leads His children on
To the place where He is gone.

Not in that poor lowly stable,
With the oxen standing by,
We shall see Him; but in Heaven,
Set at God’s right hand on high;
Where like stars His children crowned
All in white shall wait around.

Words by Cecil F. Alexander, 1848
Music by Henry J. Gauntlett, 1849

 


And now, Father, glorify me in your presence with the glory I had with you before the world began.
John 17:5

The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.
John 1:14

Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness.
Philippians 2:6 – 7

For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet he did not sin.
Hebrews 4:15

They will see his face, and his name will be on their foreheads.
Revelation 22:4

“This Jesus God raised up again, to which we are all witnesses. “Therefore having been exalted to the right hand of God, and having received from the Father the promise of the Holy Spirit, He has poured forth this which you both see and hear. “For it was not David who ascended into heaven, but he himself says: ‘THE LORD SAID TO MY LORD, “SIT AT MY RIGHT HAND
Acts 2:32 – 34


 

We all have those people we admire. People who have made an impression on us for some reason. It might be a parent. Perhaps it is a teacher who went out of their way to help their students. Sometimes it’s someone we have not met but we look up to them as an example such as historical figures or famous people who we see as an example of what we can do or be.

Now stop and think about the fact that these people were once children. They were born into this world just like each of us. From their birth the potential was in them, but no one could have seen what they would do, who they would become. In a nit unfamiliar way the Savior was born into this world and grew just as each of us. He entered into this world as an infant child. This is the theme of “Once In Royal David’s City.”

In her hymn Cecil Alexander reminds us that Jesus began his life in this world like each of us, through birth. The reality of the matter is that he was born in a more humble circumstance that most any of us. Born in a stable and laid in a manger for his bed.

Before going any further though, Alexander reminds us that while Jesus was born into this world, he existed before. She writes, “He came down to earth from Heaven, Who is God and Lord of all.” This Jesus who was laid in the manger, is God who existed before the world began. (John 17:5) Yet he came to dwell among us (John 1:14) that we might know Him.

Yet, though he was God he set aside what was rightfully his and was born a baby. (Philippians 2:6 – 7) The hymn then proceeds to remind us that Jesus experienced life in the same way we do. “Day by day, like us He grew; He was little, weak and helpless, Tears and smiles like us He knew; And He feeleth for our sadness, And He shareth in our gladness.” Jesus, God who existed before the world, experienced all the joys, sorrows and temptations that we know. As a result he know our struggles. Hebrews 4:15 tells us, “For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet he did not sin.”

When we turn to Him as our High Priest. When we put our faith and trust in him, we can find confidence in knowing that we will one day see His face. (Revelation 22:4) “Not in that poor lowly stable, With the oxen standing by, We shall see Him; but in Heaven, Set at God’s right hand on high.”

 

 

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O Little Town of Bethlehem

O 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.
O morning stars together, proclaim the holy birth,
And praises sing to God the King, and peace to men on earth!

How silently, how silently, the wondrous Gift is giv’n;
So God imparts to human hearts the blessings of His Heav’n.
No ear may hear His coming, but in this world of sin,
Where meek souls will receive Him still, the dear Christ enters in.

Where children pure and happy pray to the blessèd Child,
Where misery cries out to Thee, Son of the mother mild;
Where charity stands watching and faith holds wide the door,
The dark night wakes, the glory breaks, and Christmas comes once more.

O holy Child of Bethlehem, descend to us, we pray;
Cast out our sin, and enter in, be born in us today.
We hear the Christmas angels the great glad tidings tell;
O come to us, abide with us, our Lord Emmanuel!

Word by Phillips Brooks, 1867
Music by Lewis H. Redner, 1868

 


“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.”
Micah 5:2

“No longer will you have the sun for light by day, Nor for brightness will the moon give you light; But you will have the LORD for an everlasting light, And your God for your glory. “Your sun will no longer set, Nor will your moon wane; For you will have the LORD for an everlasting light, And the days of your mourning will be over.
Isaiah 60:19 – 20

The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.
John 1:5


 

I grew  up in a small town, (Well, technically, I grew up on a farm outside of a small town) and while it was under 1,000 people, it was a booming metropolis when compared to the town my wife’s parents were living in during the fall 1997.  The town consisted of roughly 45 people.  There was a Church, a grain elevator, an elementary school and houses, all located on 5 or 6 streets.  We visited them at their house for Christmas that year and one evening I decided to take a walk around town. Understand, we had been living in the suburbs of Chicago for the better part of 9 years, so what struck me was how peaceful it was.  I could freely walk the streets, literally down the middle of the street, enjoying the quiet time to myself. As I walked through that sleepy little town at Christmas I could not help find thoughts of the Christmas hymn, “O Little Town of Bethlehem” running through my head.

This Christmas hymn by Phillips Brooks begins with the words, “O little town of Bethlehem, how still we see thee lie! Above thy deep and dreamless sleep the silent stars go by.” Bethlehem was certainly a small town with a population of roughly 300 – 750 people. additionally, it was not a place of major significance. This is why it seems surprising that Micah prophesied in chapter 5 verse 2 “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.” This simple small town held a great promise of hope.

So the hymn continues, “Yet in thy dark streets shineth, the everlasting light.” This light was promised in Isaiah 60:19. where we read “you will have the LORD for an everlasting light.” God promised that He would come to a world lost in darkness and so Jesus is the light shining in the darkness.  (John 1:5) He is the answer to “the hopes and fears of all the years.”

Yes the darkness of this world can seem overwhelming, but Jesus’s everlasting light shines forth that we may see. So it is from this simple seemingly insignificant town, that light came to a dark world. It is a light that shines the way to Christ, who alone as our source of salvation. We, therefore, can humbly come before Him with the prayer, “O holy Child of Bethlehem, descend to us, we pray; Cast out our sin, and enter in, be born in us today.

Traditional American Version

Traditional British Version (Forest Green)

 

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