O come to us, abide with us

Phillips Brooks, the rector of Holy Trinity Church in Philadelphia, wrote the carol “O little town of Bethlehem” for the Sunday School children at his church. On Christmas Eve 1865, Phillips rode on horseback from Jerusalem to Bethlehem. Before dark he rode out of the town to a field like the one where angels appeared to shepherds and announced the birth of Jesus. As he saw shepherds keeping watch over their flocks, he reflected on the night Jesus was born. The birth of Jesus changed the history of the world and the lives of countless people.

The people in Bethlehem when Jesus was born were there at the command of the Roman Emperor for a census. They longed for God to deliver them from oppression and to fulfil his promise to send the Messiah. The birth of Jesus shone light into the darkness of their situation: “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 to-night.” Today, Jesus still shines light into the hearts of people in our troubled world.

When Mary gave birth to Jesus, angels rejoiced in the new-born King, who is the Prince of peace. “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.” Unnoticed by most people in Bethlehem, God gave his Son to a sinful and needy world. Jesus came so that all who receive him might know God. “How silently, how silently,
 the wondrous gift is given!
 So, God imparts to human hearts
 the blessings of his heaven. 
No ear may hear his coming,
 but in this world of sin, 
where meek souls will receive him still, the dear Christ enters in.”

The carol finishes with a prayer. “O holy Child of Bethlehem,
 descend to us, we pray.
 Cast out our sin, and enter in,
 be born in us to-day. 
We hear the Christmas angels
 the great glad tidings tell. 
O come to us, abide with us, our Lord Immanuel.” Prayer is a good way to respond to the coming of Jesus. Since Jesus was born many people from all nations have prayed to him asking him to forgive their sins and to give them new life. Such prayers are always answered as Jesus becomes our Immanuel and promises to be with us always.

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