-- O Little Town Of Bethlehem --
(cover version)

Found on:

Christmas (1993)

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 tonight

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

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

Known comments by Bruce Cockburn about this song, by date:

  • Album notes: "One of the guiding principles which I tried to hold to in making this album was that pieces as familiar as this one are still songs, written by songwriters, with lyrics that often make sense and are beautiful. In some cases it seemed that a little nudge in one direction or another would help to revive their 'songness'. This was written in the last century by Lewis Redner and Phillips Brooks."

  • December 1993 -

    Simon Mayo: - Historical accuracy of the Christmas story -
    We've got a special guest on the show today, apart from yourself. We're doing this whole thing called the bishop and the actress, and the bishop in question is the Bishop of Durham. Now, over here he's kind of known as a doubting bishop, and he's very controversial. And he's been saying this week in a lot of the papers the fact that the three wise men and the shepherds and the star and all that stuff doesn't really matter, it's a bit of a myth. What would you say to that?

    BC: I would say that we have no way of knowing, really, whether it's a myth or not. I think that's a matter of personal belief, and I don't think it matters very much whether we believe it is true or not. I think as a myth it suggests a larger truth, and as fact it suggests a larger truth, so really it's that larger truth that matters.

    SM: So whether it's a historical fact doesn't bother you.

    BC: It doesn't bother me at all. I mean, I have no personal way of knowing other than by faith, and my own faith tends to think that it's kind of maybe true or maybe not. I don't really know. I like the idea of it being true, and it kind of appeals to the romantic in me to think that it's true, and so I don't really question it. But obviously I don't have any way to verify that fact. So, in the absence of that, if somebody else wants to believe it's not true, that's fine with me as long as they're paying attention to the essentials that the story is pointing at.

    SM: OK, so let's stick to the traditional Christmas card approach then for O Little Town Of Bethlehem.

    BC: How dare you call this the traditional Christmas card approach.

    SM: I'm sorry, I'm sorry.

    BC: That's quite alright. I'm moved to remark too that the Bishop of Durham is in better shape than some of the bishops over here. Being notorious for doubting is a lot better than being notorious for paying too much attention to small boys.

    SM: Good point, Bruce.

    BC: Good point, yes.
    -- from "Simon Mayo interviews Bruce Cockburn" (from Canada), BBC Radio 1, December 1993, Transcribed and submitted to the project by David Newton.

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