What’s your favorite Christmas song?

When I am asked this question, I usually over-answer. I break it down into categories. How can I help it? How do you compare “Merry Christmas, Baby” to “Someday at Christmas?

And so, as the inquirer’s eyes gloss over, I present my favorites like I’m a senior yearbook.

Most likely to make me laugh: “I Want a Hippopotamus for Christmas.” Most meditative: “O Holy Night.” Most likely to fill my soul with joy: “Hark! The Herald Angels Sing.”

And most likely to give me chills? “O, Little Town of Bethlehem,” hands down.

It took me a good twenty-five years to fully appreciate this song. It’s one that’s always sort of slipped through the cracks—a little too quiet and a little too familiar to take center stage, which was why I was alarmed to discover goosebumps on my arms as I heard it on my radio for the millionth time last Christmas.

I had known the song all my life as a sweet little diddy paying homage to the birthplace of Christ, but one serious listen revealed a soul-stirring hymn acknowledging that God bestows His life-altering blessings in the silent moments, allowing the light of His grace to reveal itself within our lives, rather than rushing in with a pomp and circumstance that fades just as quickly as it inspires.

O Little Town of Bethlehem” shows me a town all shut up and put to bed, its residents fast asleep and unaware that as they sleep, God touches the earth and opens up hope for all humankind.

While mortals sleep,” God introduces a new era, a new beginning. And isn’t this always the way? While I spin in circles in search of fulfillment, God quietly arranges for me to run smack into a new opportunity. As I chase after one ambition, He paves the way for me to reach goals I never supposed I wanted. And when I give up—when I stop all my dreaming and wishing and put my hopes to bed—God quietly relights the flame of faith within me. No matter how frantically my eyes search the sky for fireworks and shooting stars, God nearly always chooses to meet my hopes and fears in the dark streets of my soul.

This is why the song gives me chills. It’s for me. I am Bethlehem, and for twenty-five years, I didn’t even know it.

Abigail Wurdeman, Prayables

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