The hills are bare at Bethlehem,
no future for the world they show;
yet here new life begins to grow,
from earth’s old dust a greenwood stem.
Not much is known about our Hymn of the Week, The Hills Are Bare at Bethlehem. The text was written by Royce Scherf, a Lutheran pastor who served congregations in the midwest before retiring to the Santa Cruz area. The tune is PROSPECT, one gathered by W. Walker in the seminal 1830’s collection Southern Harmony. This hymn has been included in only two hymnals – Singing the Living Tradition (Unitarian Universalist) and Lutheran Book of Worship (ELCA and predecessors). Scherf’s text speaks to the cool emptiness of Bethlehem all those years ago and the new life that came to us through the birth of Jesus, fulfilling God’s promise to send a messiah to the world.