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Bethlehem Bells

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This is Sovereign Hope Worship's first music video. It was performed by Pastor Leon and members of our worship team and was shot on-location at the Gibson Mansion in Missoula, MT.

The History of Bethlehem Bells

When Geof Rohrlach introduced the song to me in December of 2010, I had never heard of it before. I was drawn to the rich lyrics and having been commissioned by Pastor John to research some of the old forgotten Christmas hymns, I took on the project.

The original song, Beautiful Bethlehem Bells, was written in 1918 by Frank L. Stanton (words) and Charles E. Pollock (music). When Geof Rohrlach introduced the song to me in December of 2010, I had never heard of it before. I was drawn to the rich lyrics and having been commissioned by Pastor John to research some of the old forgotten Christmas hymns, I took on the project. I began building on what Geof had started. Geof had significantly rearranged the lyrics and replaced the original melody and music with his own. In the end, we took the lyrics of the original four verses and rearranged them with some minor changes into two verses and a two part bridge. The chorus we crafted from scratch. The result is a great remake of an old song. I am grateful to have had a part in it's development. It's a beautiful old hymn that not much of the world has the privilege of knowing. My hope is that this new arrangement will breathe new life into it for years to come.

Now on to the song's message. There's no doubt that the strength of this 1918 song is in it's rich use of language and it's robust message. Admittedly, there is this whole sentimental thing going on in the song with the bells. There is no record of any bells on the scene when Jesus was born. The idea of bells was no doubt tied to the modern tradition of bells at Christmas time. And even though the song is now nearly 100 years old, the tradition remains. We have sleigh bells, Jingle Bells, church bells, Salvation Army bells, and when you listen closely to Christmas music, you will almost always hear bells of some sort. But when you look deeper into Bethlehem Bells, you find that the song is not about bells, but that the bells represent a message. Take the line "There is life, there is life for the dying in the beautiful Bethlehem Bells." No there's not! The bells represent an announcement of grand importance and hope. It's the message that God has come to earth, has put on flesh, and has plans to save and redeem those who are lost. That's the life for the dying. And that's what the essence of the song is about. My favorite part of the song is the second half of the bridge. Beautiful lyrics, astonishing hope!

For they sing of a love that triumphs in loss
Of the love that is leading the world to the cross
Ring sweet o'er the sound of the cities and towns
And touch us with pity, oh beautiful Bethlehem bells

I love the glimpse of the cross that we see here. And with it, everything that the cross promises - victory, mercy, hope.

One last note - we changed the last chorus from "Ring out" to "Sing out" in order to end with our implied responsibility. In the end, it is not the mission of the bells to preach to the world the hope of Christmas, the hope of the cross, and the hope of redemption. It is ours.

Audio Downloads

Here is a four-part development of the song:

Original 1918 version
Geof's original demo (2010)
Leon's original demo (2010)
Final Studio Mix (2012)

Lyrics:

Above all the roar of the cities
And over the hills and the dells
With a message of peace to the nations
Ring the beautiful Bethlehem bells
Bringing joy to the souls that are sighing
In hovels where poverty dwells
There is life, there is life for the dying
In the beautiful Bethlehem bells
Ring out, ring out, you beautiful bells
You beautiful Bethlehem bells
Ring out, ring loud the joy to the world
You beautiful Bethlehem bells
Far off in a land that is lovely
For the tender, sweet story it tells
In the light of a glorious morning
Rang the beautiful Bethlehem bells
And still in the hearts of creation
An anthem exultingly swells
At that memory sweet of the ringing
Of the beautiful Bethlehem bells
They rang o’er the hills and the valleys deep
They summoned the glad world that day
From the regions of night to the manger keep
Where the beautiful Child Jesus lay
For they sing of a love that triumphs in loss
Of a love that is leading the world to the cross
Ring sweet o'er the sound of the cities and towns
And touch us with pity, oh beautiful Bethlehem bells

Sing out, sing out, like beautiful bells
Oh beautiful Bethlehem bells
Sing out, sing loud the joy to the world
Oh beautiful Bethlehem bells

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In an increasingly digital generation, our Creative Media team is attempting to find new mediums to proclaim the gospel message.

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