Growing up in the country 5 miles from the nearest town, I never heard church bells ringing on Sunday morning, let alone Christmas day. The Christmas hymn “I heard the bells on Christmas day” didn’t mean much to me. Longfellow wrote the words in 1863, when the Civil War filled everyone’s minds. (Hymnals tend to leave out the verses that specifically speak to that.) I really didn’t like the song very much because it was “old” and dreary. I grew up with sweet songs about the baby Jesus and the shepherds and angels, much cheerier lyrics. It wasn’t until many years later when I was more aware of dire circumstances in the world around me that I grew to love the words of that old carol. Christmas is about hope, primarily because a savior came into the world to rescue us, but also to help us see that no matter our interpretation of current events, God is not surprised and he’s still in control. Please hear the words, don’t just sing along as you read them without thinking of the meaning.
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.
And 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!
Till ringing, singing on its way, the world revolved from night to day, a voice, a chime, a change sublime 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 rang the bells more loud and deep, God IS NOT dead, nor does he sleep! The wrong shall fail, the right prevail with peace on earth, good will to men!
Our pastor has been preaching advent as found in the book of Revelation this month, which gives you a whole different perspective on both. 2020 has been a strange year for sure and I’m not sure 2021 will look much different, but hope, peace, joy and love are desperately needed by all of us this Christmas season.
Here in the desert southwest, life goes on, Covid 19 notwithstanding. We are staying well and enjoying bright sunshine and mostly warm (by Great Plains standards, anyway) temperatures. Back home, when daytime highs are in the high 60s and low 70s, people are breaking out the shorts or at least leaving the coat at home. Our local newscasters remind us to take a jacket or better yet, stay inside when it is so chilly! Most folks in snowy country are satisfied with daytime highs no lower than the 40s, which is what our overnights are, but I’ll try not to gloat.
Merry Christmas and we’ll see you all down the road!