When Joseph Went to Bethlehem

This is a very unique Christmas song since it’s one of the few that focuses on Joseph.  So I wanted to find a way for this arrangement to musically focus on Joseph as well.  Specifically, this arrangement depicts the birth of Christ from Joseph’s perspective – from traveling to Bethlehem, to the birth of Christ, and finally to Joseph holding the baby Jesus in his arms.

To me, Joseph was the constant.  He was the rock for Mary to rely on while everything was getting more and more hectic around her.  He was the one that reassured her everything would be OK when they had to travel to Bethlehem when she was so close to giving birth.  He was the one that told her it would be alright when there was no room at the inn.  And he was the one who comforted her when she realized that she was going to give birth in a stable. I’m sure that was frightening for Mary.

In this arrangement, you might notice that the bass note never changes, both the note itself and it’s rhythm.  Even when the song speeds up or slows down, it remains a constant half note.  That note represents Joseph.  In fact, most of the time it’s the bottom three notes that drone on a 1-5-1 chord in order to beef up that constant bass note.

After I had arranged the song, I was jokingly thinking it would have been cool if there was a J note in the music staff, so that the song could have been anchored on that droning J note (for Joseph).  It was a day or two later that it hit me that I had arranged the song in drop D.  Now, the bottom three strings on the guitar are usually tuned to E – A – D.  In drop D tuning, that bottom E is tuned down to a D.  So while I was jokingly thinking how cool it would be if that bottom note was a J for Joseph, one of the coolest moments I’ve had while arranging these hymns happened as I realized it actually already did represent him.

Those bottom three droning notes spell DAD.


Here’s how to play it

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About Ben Howington

I'm just an average Mormon trying to offset the filth out there on the internet, one guitar arrangement at a time. (Mormon.org Profile)


  1. Ben, This is the first time I enjoyed your written words as much as I enjoyed your arrangement. D-A-D… yeah, hit me hard, too. I have always felt a great reverence for Joseph. Thank you for bringing that reverence out in this arrangement. Once again, well done. JA

  2. I like how each arrangement has a different vibe to it. The whole part where you explained the repetitive notes as being Joseph made so much sense to me. It’s genius and puts a lot of meaning into the song. Visualizing helps to know when the louds or softs might sound good or when slowing down or speeding up would work as well. Thanks for the song this month and for the thought behind it.

  3. Great arrangement. Do you know when you’ll be able to get the motab up? I’m playing this song at a Christmas Eve devotional, and I’d like to incorporate your arrangement.

    • Arranging music is easy when the original is already so good. Your dad wrote one of the most beautiful melodies in the children’s hymnbook. It’s been one of my favorites since I was a kid. Thanks for your comment, Steve. I’m honored.

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