Down in Bethlehem

Today I am beginning a series of blogs about songs, more specifically songs I have written. I want to write a little about their “births,” as for me, songs are like children, or at least like the ugly ash tray I made out of clay at camp. They are mine, they mean something to me, and I still love singing them. Today, I’ll start with the first cut on my new album, “Down in Bethlehem.” I actually came up with the idea while writing a sermon, I guess it was during Advent of 2015. It’s a bit weird, really, to think of a third of humanity gathering every week to reflect on a two thousand year old set of texts, but in a time when we obsess over the latest thing, it’s a little comforting to me that we can mull over the same writing again and again, and like some prism being slowly turned in daylight, new colors of insight come.

I was struck by the commonality of the major stories about Bethlehem, that of Ruth, a Moabite widow who came as a foreigner immigrating back to her husband’s home’ David, the youngest of eight, who was selected by the prophet Samuel to replace Saul as king, and Jesus, born to a young couple shrouded in unimportance.  Again and again, in the Bible, God “chooses” to work with the “Most Likely Not to Be Chosen.” First I wrote a short poem to use in the sermon, then was haunted by it until this song came.

I was thinking about U2, Springsteen, music that is simple, driving, repetitive and building over time. Brent Warren does some really fine electric guitar work on this cut.  Take a listen and enjoy!  BUY or listen to it here. It still is true, I believe, that hope is a powerful and inexplicable reality, one that rises up unexpectedly and in the most unpromising of moments. That is when I suspect God might be up to something.  (see Ruth, 1 Samuel 16, Matthew 2 for the stories behind the song).  I’ve posted the whole song on my website for a week or so.

Ruth went there as a refugee with the clothes on her back and heart full of grief,

down in Bethlehem,

To the people in town, she looked lost, clinging to the love of her mother-in-law,

down in Bethlehem.

She worked in the fields where the poor folks glean

Wound up the grandmother of the king,

Down in Bethlehem.


Man of God came down the trail, looking for the next king of Israel,

down in Bethlehem.

One by one seven sons in a line, Prophet said, “Well, they all look fine,”

but I guess I’m done unless there’s another one,

Jesse said, “We left the youngest home; he’s watching the sheep all alone.

Down in Bethlehem ,


Jesse said, He’s not the one you need, He’s a little too young and still pretty green,

He’s the end of my line. Prophet said, “That’s fine.

Go and bring him here anyway, God doesn’t care about his resume,

The Lord just looks inside.”

So they when they brought young David around,

Samuel knew he’d found the Chosen one,

Down in Bethlehem.


Little Jesus lying in a manger box, Old King Herod, that sneaky fox ,

Sent his men to do him in.

The soldiers killed every boy they saw, but Mary and Joseph, already gone

from down in Bethlehem.

It’s still the same as it was back then–revenge and killing seems to never end

Mothers weeping down in Bethlehem.


But I keep on hoping and praying for light.

Maybe we can still catch sight of a star in the sky.

It’s worth one more try.

So keep planting your seed in barren fields and don’t be shocked when the harvest yield,

fills your barn again.

If you’re on hard times, a little down on your luck

Something good might still come up,

Down in Bethlehem,

Down in Bethlehem,

Down in Bethlehem

Published by

Gary Furr

Gary is a musician, writer and Christian minister living in Alabama.

One thought on “Down in Bethlehem”

  1. I had already heard your song, but reading your blog today was rewarding to my soul as I read the words today
    Your musical friend in Christ,

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