It’s a jingly time of the year! You hear the Salvation Army bell ringers outside of many stores, you hear kids ringing jingle bells, and some people even wear bells on their clothing this time of year. Many of our favorite Christmas songs mention the ringing of bells. Bells are a way of announcing news, and the sound of bells remind us of the joy of this season.
One of my favorite Christmas songs is a poignant one. It is based on a poem “Christmas Bells” by the well-known American poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow. (You can read the entire poem here). This poem was written on Christmas day of 1864 during a very dark period in the history of our country. (You can read an interesting article on the writing of this poem here). Longfellow composed the words during the last few months of the way which had torn the United States in two and which had pitted brother against brother. More lives were lost as a result of the American Civil War than any other before or since. Almost three out of every 100 people living in the US had been killed, so every family was affected in some way.
When Longfellow’s entire poem is read the weariness and hopelessness of the time can be felt clearly. The poet is clearly struggling with how the Christmas message the Christ came to bring “peace on earth” is relevant to a world like his that has been so radically torn apart by tragedy. Sound familiar? Listen to the message of the last two stanzas of “Christmas Bells.”
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.”
How will we react to the news of our world, this Christmas season? Will we respond with despair, or with a living hope which arises from an absolute trust that God’s just rule will prevail (1 Peter 1:3-5)? Let me encourage you that every time you hear a bell this Christmas season, that you recognize it as an announcement of God’s good work in Jesus Christ being accomplished. May his peace begin in our hearts, and may we be agents of his peace.
The children’s Christmas program on Sunday was amazing. They began with a song about Christmas bells—the beautiful “Carol of the Bells” and what a great job they did with it! It was so good to see the young people leading us in remembering the story of Jesus’ birth and reminding us of the central reason for our celebrations this time of year. Don’t you think that being in the program will be something that the young people look back on with fondness in the years to come? Thanks so much to Diana Boschulte and Mollie Marvel for putting the program together and leading it so well!
I hope and pray that you will experience God’s love and Christ’s peace throughout the rest of this season. May your time with family, friends, and with your brothers and sisters in Christ be a blessing that will sustain you and give you hope!
God bless, Brian