In Then Sings My Soul: 150 of the World’s Greatest Hymn Stories, author Robert J. Morgan recounts the composing of a popular Christmas carol by an organist with writer’s block:
“At nearly six feet six, weighing three hundred pounds, Phillips Brooks cast a long shadow. He was a native Bostonian, the ninth generation of distinguished Puritan stock, who entered the Episcopalian ministry and pastored with great power in Philadelphia and in Boston. His sermons were topical rather than expositional, and he’s been criticized for thinness of doctrine. Nonetheless he’s considered one of America’s greatest preachers. His delivery came in lightning bursts; he felt he had more to say than time in which to say it.
While at Philadelphia’s Holy Trinity Church, Phillips, 30, visited the Holy Land. On December 24, 1865, traveling by horseback from Jerusalem, he attended a five-hour Christmas Eve service at the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem. He was 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 voice I knew well, telling each other of the Wonderful Night of the Savior’s birth.’
Three years later, as he prepared for the Christmas season of 1867, he wanted to compose an original Christmas hymn for the children to sing during their annual program. Recalling his magical night in Bethlehem, he wrote a little hymn of five stanzas and handed the words to his organist, Lewis Redner, saying, ‘Lewis, why not write a new tune for my poem. If it is a good tune, I will name it “St. Louis” after you.’
Lewis struggled with his assignment, complaining of no inspiration. Finally, on the night before the Christmas program, he awoke with the music ringing in his soul. He jotted down the melody, then went back to sleep. The next day, a group of six Sunday school teachers and thirty-six children sang ‘O Little Town of Bethlehem.’ 
Brooks was so pleased with the tune that he did indeed name it for his organist, changing the spelling to “St. Louis” so as not to embarrass him. The fourth stanza, usually omitted from our hymnbooks, says:
Where children pure and happy pray to the blessed Child,Where misery cries out to Thee, Son of the mother mild;Where charity stands watching and faith holds wide the door,The dark night wakes, the glory breaks, and Christmas comes once more”I look forward to accompanying spirited singers on this and many other favorite carols this Christmas season.
See you in church,
Marty Wirt, music director