I heard The Bells On Christmas Day

For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord. And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.  And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying,  Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.
-Luke 2:11-14 (KJV)

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!
Christmas is normally and by default, a very happy day.  But sometimes, it comes during a sad time.  I remember the first Christmas after my grandpa died.  My grandma was so different.  This Christmas, was filled with the most sadness, of any for her.  Christmas is different when you are grieving.  (1)

The poet, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, was grieved on Christmas, in 1863; and wrote the poem, Christmas Bells.  He had lost his second wife, Frances, in an accidental fire, two years previous; and he just received word that his oldest son, Charles, had been wounded in battle.

There are at least two versions, in my memory, of "I heard The Bells on Christmas Day".  I am not even certain if the happy sounding one is based on Longfellow's poem.  The tune for the Longfellow-based song is somewhat melancholy, yet hopeful.

A hard aspect, or difficult part of the Christmas story, is the story of all the infants (boys under the age of two) who were murdered, told in Matthew, chapter 2.  Recently, when a young boy died in a tragic accident; I read comments in that town's local newspaper's on-line version, where people opined that God caused this untimely and tragic death.  "No!", is what I said, when I added my voice to the comments thread.  God does not kill little boys on purpose in accidents.  But accidents happen.  God allows it.  We live in a fallen world that is being redeemed, and the job is not done.

This coming Christmas will be very different for that family.  But, God gave us the gift of grieving our losses, to be healed.  Every adult has scars in their lives that are healed wounds.  Broken hearts can and are healed, but we still bear the scars and sadness from our losses of our loved ones.  Those who loose a child may very well live out the rest of their lives with a hole in their hearts where something is missing, until heaven.

The bells are ringing because good tidings are being announced.  Jesus came to redeem the world.  This place has sadness, but God has come to give us joy.  A spiritual battle is being fought for the souls of all.

Christmastime is also a time of redemption.  It cost God to redeem us.  The enemy is going to fight it.  Life will be difficult, but there will be joy.  We will get knocked down, but never defeated.  Death can not even defeat us.

There is great sadness and joy in the Christian life.  Our feelings are alive, so we feel both and we don't need to numb them, like non-believers try to do so often.  We don't have to be stoic or in denial.  We don't have to be rugged individuals.  No.  We will weep.  Jesus wept and so will we.

Sorrow is better than laughter (Ecc. 7:3) and many people, oftentimes rich or well-off people (most of us in America), need to learn grieving.  Instead of seeking to consume more and be entertained more, we need to mourn (James 4:9).

God's working to redeem the world is wild and sweet.  God works within the frame of humans who have free will to choose, with a seemingly infinite capacity deceive ourselves.  But the biggest deception is that God is not God.  That he is not loving, or just, good, powerful, truthful, merciful, or a hundred other unique attributes of God.

Fallen human beings have hearts geared to their desires (1 Jn 2:16).  But God changes the Christian's heart and the Christian's begin to live in Christ.  The Christian living in Christ lives in love; God's love through Christ.  And now that love is their rule of life towards others.  The life and command of Christ is to love other Christians (1 Jn. 2).

Christmastime (which is all the time) is a time to give and receive gifts, but it is also a time to reflect on the redemption that the gift of Christ brings.  He redeems the ugly to be beautiful.  Because he came and paid for sin and rose from the dead, I have joy after my mourning.  I have hope that the world does not have (1 Thess. 4:13).

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 chant sublime
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!

Then from each black, accursed mouth
The cannon thundered in the South,
And with the sound
The carols drowned
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!

It was as if an earthquake rent
The hearth-stones of a continent,
And made forlorn
The households born
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."

1. This post is from a series:
Gifts From God: Christmastime all The Time
Feliz Navidad!
What Child is This?