Wednesday, December 7, 2011


It is always amazing at how mindlessly we can sing particularly when the songs are so familiar. A couple weeks ago we sang the Christmas carol, "I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day."  I have sung it many times and yet it had never really connected with me before. The words sounded new and fresh. Interestingly enough I was completely unaware of the story behind the song. Henry W. Longfellow wrote it as a poem on Christmas Day of 1864. The country had been immersed in civil war and was experiencing something very different than "peace on earth.." Three years prior to writing the poem, Longfellow's wife had died in a tragic accident and the following year he would write during Christmas that there was no joy in the celebration. One year before writing the poem one of his son's was severely wounded in the war. It is no wonder that he would write "in despair I bowed my head: there is no peace on earth I said."

How many of us struggle with God's promised peace and the tangible realities of a world in chaos and struggle and our own hurts, disappointments and losses in life. It seems that at Christmas those questions and losses seem to be more intense. It takes a couple years but Longfellow does go on to write "then pealed the bells more loud and deep: God is not dead: nor doth He sleep!" The experience of Christ's work, the reality of His ongoing movement in the world, and the sounding truth from His Word do  - at just the right time - sound louder and deeper than the doubts and despairs of our own hearts. Just when we start to think that the Lord is absent - He shows up and touches our hearts with assurance and promise and a restoration of hope.

The bells of Christmas worship will ring out this week ... at church, in your car, at home, in the mall. Perhaps it will be a bell that sounds of joy, or perhaps a bell that sounds the hope of rescue, or perhaps it is a bell that wakes us up from slumber and complacency... there is Good News in it - always - "God is not dead, nor doth He sleep!"

1. 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.

2. 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.

3. 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.'

4. 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.'

5. 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.

1 comment:

  1. Hi from travelling Canadians, were at the church yesterday, picked up the bulletin and really enjoyed reading your blog. I am encouraged by having read the latest 4-5, the references of Eph, and grace, coffee and sorry to hear of your parents. Despite few comments I see that you have alot of viewers.
    May God continue to make you a blessing!


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