Their Descendants...Their Stories...Their Achievements

Lifting the Mists of History on Their Way of Life

By: Ethelene Dyer Jones

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Everywhere, Everywhere Christmas Tonight!

What a rare privilege to be writing a column for Christmas Day, 2008, one to be published on that very day. Thank you, Mr. Frank Bradley, for allowing me the delight of writing for The Union Sentinel since July, 2003. To all my faithful readers and the staff at The Union Sentinel—a joyous Christmas and bright hope for the New Year.

Here are words of a poem, turned into a Christmas carol, by the Rev. Phillips Brooks:

Everywhere, everywhere, Christmas tonight!
Christmas in lands of the fir-tree and pine,
Christmas in lands of the palm tree and vine,
Christmas where snow peaks stand solemn and white,
Christmas where cornfields stand sunny and bright;
Everywhere, everywhere, Christmas tonight.
Christmas where children are hopeful and gay,
Christmas where old men are patient and gray,
Christmas where peace, like a dove in his flight,
Broods o'er brave men in the thick of the fight;
Everywhere, everywhere, Christmas tonight.
For the Christ-child who comes is the Master of all,
No place too great and no cottage too small;
The Angels who welcome Him sing from the height,
"In the city of David, a King in His might."
Everywhere, everywhere, Christmas tonight.
Then let every heart keep its Christmas within:
Christ's pity for sorrow, Christ's hatred for sin.
Christ's care for the weakest, Christ's courage for right,
Christ's dread of the darkness, Christ's love for the light.
Everywhere, everywhere, Christmas tonight.
So the stars of the midnight which compass us round
Shall see a strange glory, and hear a sweet sound,
And cry, "Look! the earth is aflame with delight,
O sons of the morning, rejoice at the sight!"
Everywhere, everywhere, Christmas tonight!

Dr. Brooks also wrote a better known Christmas carol, "O Little Town of Bethlehem." We sing it every year in our churches and in community concerts. He wrote the words of that carol in 1867 after spending a sabbatical visiting the Holy Land. He rode horseback from Jerusalem to Bethlehem, and assisted with the midnight Christmas Eve service in the Church of the Nativity in 1865. Dr. Brooks wrote of that experience:

"I remember standing in the old church in Bethlehem, close to the spot where Jesus was born, when the whole church was ringing hour after hour with splendid hymns of praise to God, how again and again, it seemed as if I could hear voices I knew well, telling each other of the wonderful night of the Savior's birth."

And so was born, two years later, in recollection of his experiences in the Holy Land, the words of "O Little Town of Bethlehem" which Lewis Henry Redner set to music. Redner was organist at Holy Trinity Episcopal Church in Philadelphia where Dr. Phillips Brooks was pastor.

The same musician, Lewis Henry Redner, set to music Dr. Brooks' words entitled "Everywhere, Everywhere, Christmas Tonight." This Christmas carol has not had the widespread appeal of "O Little Town of Bethlehem," but the poignancy of its words encompass the whole world with the author's desire that everyone, everywhere celebrate Christ's birth. This poem has a buoyancy and excitement that bespeaks the Christmas spirit.

It is notable that Bishop Phillips Brooks (born December 13, 1835 in Boston, Massachusetts, died January 23, 1893 in Boston) has been termed the "greatest American preacher of the 19th Century." During the Civil War, he was pastor of the Episcopal Church of the Advent in Philadelphia. His loyalties were with the Union and he supported President Abraham Lincoln in his Emancipation Proclamation. Dr. Brooks delivered one of the funeral sermons at the death of Lincoln. In 1869 he became rector of Trinity Episcopal Church in Boston where he remained until he was made Episcopal Bishop of Massachusetts in 1891 until his death.

Were that the words of his poem/song could be true on this Christmas, 2008: "Everywhere, everywhere, Christmas tonight!" But Christmas is everywhere that loving hearts remember the meaning of Christmas and why we celebrate. It may be in the midst of war or in a poverty-laden household, as Brooks wrote in part of a stanza sometimes omitted from "O Little Town of Bethlehem": "Where charity stands watching and faith holds wide the door, The dark night wakes, the glory breaks, and Christmas comes once more!"

c 2008 by Ethelene Dyer Jones; published Dec. 25, 2008 in The Union Sentinel, Blairsville, GA. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.

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