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I Heard The Bells On Christmas Day

Advent is upon us, beginning on the fourth Sunday before Christmas. It is a time of anticipation as we eagerly await the celebration of Jesus’ birth, the most blessed of events. The Almighty creator of the Universe, driven by incomprehensible love, humbles Himself on behalf of those He loves and longs for. Fully God, yet fully man. Our Redeemer personified in an effort to save and restore His people. Jesus, the Christ, the Messiah, the ultimate gift of God to the world.

While Christmas is most certainly a time of celebration, for many it is a time of loneliness, bitterness, strife, envy, greed, and seemingly anything but “Peace on Earth.” People continue to suffer. Although love and good will are practiced during this season, wars are still being fought, people are dying, loved ones battle cancer and other ailments, and families are torn apart. From a secular view, Christmas can seem like anything more than a time to “shop till you drop.” Hope is not in the gift of Christ, but in the gift purchased for someone and the anticipation they will like it, coupled with the impending dread they may not. Sadly, the world seems to operate as if Jesus never came.

“I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day” is from a poem written by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow entitled, "Christmas Bells." He wrote the poem on Christmas Day in 1863, amidst the time of the American Civil War. Two years earlier, he had lost his beloved wife Fanny, after she was fatally burned. Then, his son Charles Appleton Longfellow suffered wounds as a soldier in the Battle of New Hope Church, VA during the Mine Run Campaign. It seems for a couple of years Christmas held no joy for Henry Wadsworth Longfellow. However, his son having survived must have caused him to muse over the thought of Christmas. The result, a thoughtful poem, and beloved Christmas carol. Notice the lyrics of the song.

I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day
Their old familiar carols play,
And wild and sweet the words repeat
Of peace on earth, good will to men.

I thought how, as the day had come,
The belfries of all Christendom
Had rolled along the unbroken song
Of peace on earth, good will to men.

And in despair I bowed my head:
"There is no peace on earth," I said,
"For hate is strong and mocks the song
Of peace on earth, good will to men."

Then pealed the bells more loud and deep:
"God is not dead, nor doth he sleep;
The wrong shall fail, the right prevail,
With peace on earth, good will to men."

Till, ringing singing, on its way,
The world revolved from night to day,
A voice, a chime, a chant sublime,
Of peace on earth, good will to men!

In Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s despair, Christmas had lost its joy. There seemed to be no peace on earth. War and hate mocked those words, and good will to men was in essence a joke. Then he heard God through the bells. Their ringing grew more loud and deep. As he continued to muse, he realized, “God is not dead, nor doth he sleep.” In Christ, the wrong shall fail and right will prevail. It is then that a voice, a chant sublime will sing out, “Peace on earth, good will to men.”

As we celebrate Christmas let us be both mindful of the tragedies of human frailty, the loses of loved ones, the pain of war and the inequity of this world, but also of the Gift of God, the coming of the promised Messiah, and the joy that Gift of gifts can produce. In a willing and open heart, God creates joy unspeakable in the midst of the harshness of life. As Christians, may our hands not wring in despair, but instead, ring with the resounding love of God. May our hands, words and deeds be a balm that heals, nourishes, encourages and proclaims the Joy of the Lord.

May God whisper to you this Christmas season through the carols, as he did to Henry Wadsworth Longfellow through the bells. May the bells and songs remind you of how much Jesus loves you, and may that love transcend the world, filling you with joy, peace, and comfort. Then we can sing with belief, the Christmas carol...

Good Christians all, rejoice
with heart, and soul, and voice!
Now ye need not fear the grave;
Jesus Christ was born to save,
Calls you one and calls you all,
to gain his everlasting hall.
Christ was born to save!
Christ was born to save!

We at Sword and Spirit Ministries, along with our families, want to wish you a Merry Christmas.



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