Here it is, the end of 2012. At the beginning of this year I was 204 pounds and now I weigh about 175. I’ve been at that weight for about the last 6 months with an occasional foray into the low 170’s. Over the past year I have run or walked for 214 hours and completed 1,356 miles. That means that over the last year I ran and walked from New Orleans to Ottawa. It would only take you 24 hours to drive it. The more amazing thing is that I ran 200 more miles but did that in 3 less hours than 2011. I finished off this year with a run this afternoon – a 7 miler in under an hour at an 8:24 pace. I was about a minute per mile slower last year.
By the way, this makes post #3500. It’s hard to believe that Pam and I have written that many posts in the last 6-1/2 years.
It was the sight of Bethlehem itself, one feels very sure, that gave Phillips Brooks the impulse to write this hymn. He was then rector of the Church of the Holy Trinity, in Philadelphia, and had spent a year’s vacation traveling in Europe and the East. “After an early dinner, we took our horses and rode to Bethlehem,” so he wrote home in Christmas week of 1865. “It was only about two hours when we came to the town, situated on an eastern ridge of a range of hills, surrounded by its terraced gardens. It is a good-looking town, better built than any other we have seen in Palestine. . . . Before dark, we rode out of town to the field where they say the shepherds saw the star. It is a fenced piece of ground with a cave in it (all the Holy Places are caves here), in which, strangely enough, they put the shepherds. The story is absurd, but somewhere in those fields we rode through the shepherds must have been. . . . As we passed, the shepherds were still “keeping watch over their flocks or leading them home to fold.” Mr. Brooks returned in September, 1866, and it must have been while meditating at home over what he had seen that the carol took shape in his mind. The late Dr. Arthur Brooks assured the writer that it was not written until 1868.
In the programme of the Christmas service of the Sunday-school of the Church of the Holy Trinity in that year the carol was first printed, and it was sung to the music written for it by Mr. Lewis H. Redner.
Its history as a hymn begins then, and a considerable share of the credit for its popularity must be given to Mr. Redner, at that time organist of the church, superintendent of its mission, and teacher in the church school. The place of the carol in the books is now established, and new tunes have been and will be written for it. But it is safe to say that Mr. Redner’s music was what carried the carol into notice and popularity. If the tune to which it was sung at that service had been unsuccessful, it is unlikely that the carol would have been reprinted or heard again, at least during Bishop Brooks’s life.
With this view of the case it seemed to the present writer well worth while that an account, as circumstantial as possible, of the genesis of hymn and tune should be secured from the one man living who knows it. And standing over Mr. Redner in his Walnut Street office in Philadelphia one winter afternoon, waving aside the modest protests and gently prodding the reluctance of that genial composer, he was happy in obtaining the following written statement of the circumstances: “As Christmas of i868 approached, Mr. Brooks told me that he had written a simple little carol for the Christmas Sunday-school service, and he asked me to write the tune to it. The simple music was written in great haste and under great pressure. We were to practice it on the following Sunday. Mr. Brooks came to me on Friday, and said, ‘Redner, have you ground out that music yet to “O Little Town of Bethlehem”?’ I replied, ‘No,’ but that he should have it by Sunday. On the Saturday night previous my brain was all confused about the tune. I thought more about my Sunday-school lesson than I did about the music. But I was roused from sleep late in the night hearing an angel-strain whispering in my ear, and seizing a piece of music paper I jotted down the treble of the tune as we now have it, and on Sunday morning before going to church I filled in the harmony. Neither Mr. Brooks nor I ever thought the carol or the music to it would live beyond that Christmas of 1868.
“My recollection is that Richard McCauley, who then had a bookstore on Chestnut Street west of Thirteenth Street, printed it on leaflets for sale. Rev. Dr. Huntington, rector of All Saints’ Church, Worcester, Mass., asked permission to print it in his Sunday-school hymn and tune book, called The Church Porch, and it was he who christened the music ‘Saint Louis.’”
The date of Dr. Huntington’s book, 1874, does not imply a very prompt recognition of the merits of the carol even as available for use in the Sunday-school. Nor does its appearance in that book imply that the carol passed at that date into general use in Sunday-schools. But gradually it became familiar in those connected with the Protestant Episcopal Church. By the year 1890 it had begun to make its appearance in hymnals intended for use in church worship. In 1892 (some twenty-four years after its first appearance) Bishop Brooks’s carol was given a place as a church hymn in the official hymnal of his own denomination. This occasioned the composition of new tunes to its words for rival musical editions of that book, and also drew attention afresh to the earlier tune of Mr. Redner. It seems, too, to have settled the status of the hymn, recent editors being as reluctant to omit the hymn as their predecessors had been to recognize it.
There is, however, nothing unusual or surprising in this delay in admitting the carol into the church hymnals. Almost all hymns undergo such a period of probation before they attain recognition; and it is for the best interests of hymnody that they should. In this particular case there was an especial reason for delay. There had to be a certain change in the standards by which hymns are judged before a carol such as this could be esteemed suitable for church use. In 1868, it is likely, not even its author would have seriously considered it in such a connection.
So here we are on the final Sunday night in 2012. I know it is a cliché, but I really don’t know where the time has gone. It’s been a great week and a great year – Pam and I will have more on that tomorrow.
I wanted to get this written early, so I snuck down to the basement – where it’s quiet – to write this at a relatively early 8 PM. We spent much of the last week celebrating Christmas with the kids and with our parents. On Christmas morning we left for Pennsylvania, and it quickly became apparent that everyone just to the north of us got a white Christmas. Those are quite unusual here in Virginia. This was our eighth Christmas in the Dominion State and only one (as I recall was white) and that was the year it started snowing in early December and didn’t quit until late February (2010.) Augusta County had more snow that year than our friends in Upstate New York.
The weather is cold, but as I looked at the climate data for this time of year, it is very close to normal. At the moment we are in a very active pattern, with more snow/rain forecast for Tuesday. When we arrived back from Pennsylvania, we encountered some ice encrusted snow. It was as smooth as glass and both James and I managed to fall down hard on it. That was not fun. On Friday it took some work to clear the sidewalk here at home.
After a week-long break from running, I went out this afternoon. It was a short run (4 miles) but it was good, because my pace was an 8:15/mile. Over the next week, I want to extend my distance again and work off some of that good Christmas food.
I was anticipating this morning’s service and we had a great one as we celebrated communion together. The theme unofficial theme was “from the cradle to the cross.” Many of the songs we sang today, made the connection of Bethlehem to Calvary and our pastor’s message reinforced that idea before we took communion. It was a great service and I love the way the Holy Spirit works.
This coming week I am anticipating several things. We have a New Year’s Eve party with one of our pastor friends tomorrow night and we have a cluster dinner with our Wesleyan pastor friends in the area on Friday night and a cluster 5th Sunday Sing on Sunday night. It looks like this is one of those weeks when I have something every night. But we don’t get many of those.
It’s been a great week and I am looking forward to a new week and what God has in store. Pressing On!
The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2012 annual report for this blog.
Here’s an excerpt:
4,329 films were submitted to the 2012 Cannes Film Festival. This blog had 15,000 views in 2012. If each view were a film, this blog would power 3 Film Festivals
December 30, 2012
Welcome and Announcements
Scripture Reading – Luke 22:14-20
Call to Worship
Songs of Worship
God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen/Go, Tell It On the Mountain/O Come Let Us Adore Him
Unison Reading – The Apostle’s Creed
Song of Worship – O Little Town of Bethlehem
Worship Through Giving
Song of Worship – Born In Bethlehem
Song of Preparation – Jesus Saves
Consecration of Bread and Wine
Distribution of Bread and Wine