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  • Writer's pictureCatherine Dalziel

What's your favourite? (13-12-2022)


But you, O Bethlehem Ephrathah, who are too little to be among the clans of Judah, from you shall come forth for me one who is to be ruler in Israel, whose coming forth is from of old, from ancient days. (Micah 5:2)

In those days a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be registered. This was the first registration when Quirinius was governor of Syria. And all went to be registered, each to his own town. And Joseph also went up from Galilee, from the town of Nazareth, to Judea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and lineage of David, to be registered with Mary, his betrothed, who was with child. And while they were there, the time came for her to give birth. And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in swaddling cloths and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn. (Luke 2:1-7)


I like to listen to the radio. I turn it on when I get up in the morning and listen to it on and off throughout the day when I want some music on in the background. My choice of radio station is usually Classic fm. I particularly enjoy listening to it in the run up to Christmas. On 1st December each year they ‘turn on’ their Christmas music. It all starts very gently with maybe just one piece of seasonal music per hour, but as Christmas Day draws closer so the amount of Christmassy pieces increases until on Christmas Day itself every piece of music is either a carol, tune or orchestral piece relating to Christmas. I love this build up and particularly enjoy hearing and singing along with the Christmas Carols.

One of the things that Classic fm does is that it asks its listeners to vote for their favourite carol, the rundown of which is then played on Christmas Day. I remember the advice given by one of the presenters. They said that you can tell that a piece of music is one of your favourites if, while driving your car, you reach your destination before the piece has finished, you will sit in the car and wait until it does. As it so happens I was driving to do some shopping the other Friday when my favourite carol started on the radio. It hadn’t finished by the time I had parked the car, so I continued to listen, while happily singing along until it had. Only when it had finished did I notice that there was someone sitting in their car next to mine! I simply smiled at them as I got out of the car.

So what is my favourite carol? It is ‘O little town of Bethlehem’, a carol written by the American bishop Phillips Brooks in 1868 for his Sunday School class. I feel the need to join in and sing it every time I hear it. I don’t even mind which tune is used, it is the words that do it for me as much as the tune. It was written originally for children as the bishop wanted his Sunday School class to understand what Christmas was all about. As adults we too need to remember what Christmas is all about. The last verse is often sung with much gusto and a descant accompaniment but it also makes a lovely prayer that we can all use when we want something to pray over this Christmas season.

Prayer (Phillips Brooks 1868)

O holy Child of Bethlehem Descend to us, we pray Cast out our sin and enter in Be born to us today We hear the Christmas angels The great glad tidings tell O come to us, abide with us Our Lord Emmanuel


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