O Little Town of Bethlehem

As a corrective to the sentimental, emasculated “Baby Jesus” take on Christmas, I offer instead this remarkably adult advent hymn which we used at the end of our LGBT Soho Mass last Sunday:

Neapolitan creche

Recessional: We cannot tell (The Londonderry Air )

We cannot tell how Bethlehem , Christ’s birthplace,

where bombs explode and deadly missiles fall,

may speak to all the leaders of the nations

out of the shadows of a concrete wall.

But this we know, that all God’s pilgrim people

who live in hope that one day wars will cease,

must join to build a highway through the desert,

a road where all may come and go in peace.

We cannot tell how we can end the conflict,

where walls divide and many faiths compete,
or make of Bethlehem , the town of David

a House of Bread where open hearts may meet.

But this we know, God shepherds all the people,

seeking to guide us with a righteous hand,

and calls us all to pray and work for justice

in Bethlehem and all the Holy Land .

We cannot tell how those who have been wounded

by hate and fear passed down throughout the years

may hope to reap a harvest of rejoicing

from seeds once sown in bitterness or tears.

But this we pray, O God of love and mercy,

that in your strength and guided by your grace,

with all your people, we may find forgiveness,

and make this world your holy dwelling place.

(UPDATE: In the comments thread, a reader who likes this post led me to take a look at his own site, focussing on hymns, whihc has some great commentary on soppy, sentimental hymns and the Bishop of Croydon’s objections. Take a look at “Conjubilant With Song“)

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2 Responses to “O Little Town of Bethlehem”

  1. C.W.S. Says:

    Thanks for sharing this provocative text. The Bishop of Croydon would approve — it’s no Little town of Bethlehem!

    Do you know who the author or copyright holder is?

    • Terence@queerchurch Says:

      I’m glad you like it. It was used for our liturgy, but I have no knowledge of the source. I’ll try to find out for you.


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