O Little Town of Bethlehem

Have you ever visited a new place and been so enamored by it, you write a song about it? That’s just what happened to Phillips Brooks, an Episcopalian clergyman, when he visited Bethlehem for the first time in 1865. What came from his trip we now know as “O Little Town of Bethlehem”.  

Bethlehem inspired Brooks to write a poem, which he had called a “little ditty” for Sunday school. He asked Lewis Redner, his church’s organist, if he could put together a tune for it for the following Sunday.

The following Sunday? What a fast turnaround for Redner! But he did it, and he credits the help of an “angel tune” which floated into his ears in the middle of the night, just before the Sunday school session. Both Redner and Brooks thought their little ditty would work for the Sunday school lesson, but likely wouldn’t live on past that. They would be amazed to know how far and wide “O Little Town of Bethlehem” and the tune Redner created, called “St. Louis”, have spread!

Depending on where you are in the world, there are two different tunes used. The one we know from Redner is called the “St. Louis”, and the other is called the “Forest Green”, which comes from a much older song. It’s amazing how far our love for Christ can go when we are creative with it!

Join the Northridge Preparatory School choir in singing “O Little Town of Bethlehem” below!

Rev. Francis J. Hoffman, "Fr. Rocky" is the Executive Director/CEO of Relevant Radio and a priest of Opus Dei.