Critical Christmas Carols: O Little Town Of Nazareth

Having written a song that appreciates the traditional Christmas story as story, I feel like I need to counterbalance it with some other songs which take into account historical criticism and other scholarly methods and their conclusions. I have a few ideas already for new lyrics to traditional Christmas songs – and so let me start things off with “O Little Town of Nazareth”:

O Little Town of Nazareth


O little town of Nazareth

Minute village in fact

From which Bethlehem also small

Has managed to

you historians tell us

Jesus was likely born

But Gospels preferred Bethlehem

Thus treating you with scorn


Somewhere in quiet Nazareth

The locals surely’d say

That Mary with her husband

in natural ways

They prob’ly saw no angels

To comfort or to scare

And in more mundane circumstance

Gave birth to Jesus there


O tiny village Nazareth

Let us your secret learn

Tis in the tiny unnamed streets

Which kings and magi spurn

That may be born a child

Whose life still shines today

Far brighter than a mythic star

To lead us on our way


O tiny child of Nazareth

Your miracles perform

Not turning water into wine

But care for the forlorn

Some find legends distract them

As statements in a creed

But better still to stand with you

By helping those in need

Maybe next I’ll move on to “Noisy Night, Ordin’ry Night.” Any other requests or suggestions? Should I record this?

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  • Ian

    I like this. I’d say keep polishing the scansion on this one, to make it shine, rather than writing more.

  • Digger

    “Yea, hath God said…” No virgin birth, not born in Bethlehem as told in the Bible, no miracle at Cana, the Bible is legend, myth, god is nothing more than helping those in need.
    Ladies and gentlemen, this is absolute apostasy. This author serves Satan. Repent from this article and follow Jesus; the Bible is not wrong. Do not trust James McGrath’s “wisdom” over God’s wisdom.

    • James F. McGrath

      You are simply preferring your own wisdom, and that of some ancient authors that you have unbiblically deified, rather than seriously listening to others with whom you disagree. I personally am persuaded that the path of insulating yourself from challenging viewpoints held by others is not the way of wisdom.

  • guest

    I like the idea but it doesn’t flow well. Needs to rhyme more. Did you try saying the lines out loud?

    The problem is that if you strip the legends from the Christmas story, there’s not much left. Jesus probably wasn’t born in December, He was most likely concieved in the normal way (that would make an interesting carol!), there weren’t any magi or shephards and no magic star. No census, no slaughter of the innocents (which is lucky), no angels singing ‘falalalala’. Not much snow in Israel.

    I guess any birth where the child comes out healthy is something to celebrate, especially back then, and the image of a baby being rocked in his mother’s loving arms, while his father looks on protectively, has a certain universal appeal. But most of the stuff hypothetical historical Jesus is famous for, he did long after he was born. The night of his birth was probably totally ordinary, at the time. Assuming he was even born at night…can we even say that for sure?

    • James F. McGrath

      No, we don’t know what time of day either. I did sing it to myself to make sure it works, but there is definitely room for improvement!

  • friendly reader

    Actually, since Nazareth has the same syllables as Bethlehem and Bethlehem isn’t rhymed with anything (because what would?) you can just swap the words without having to completely rewrite the song.

    At the end of the day, does it truly matter where Jesus was born? From an traditional, “orthodox” Christian perspective, the miracle is that the incarnation happened at all, no matter where it was.