I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day

“The days are coming,” declares the Lord,
    “when I will raise up for David a righteous Branch,
a King who will reign wisely
    and do what is just and right in the land.
In his days Judah will be saved
    and Israel will live in safety.
This is the name by which he will be called:
    The Lord Our Righteous Savior.

Jeremiah 23:5-6

In centering my heart and mind on the birth of Jesus, I find myself distracted at times.  The news is at best depressing. The aftermath of our nation’s election has undermined the people’s faith in elections, undermined our democracy and created strife in what might have been a peaceful transfer of leadership. The pandemic only exacerbates the situation; we are feeling the stress of isolation, illness, even death of loved ones, friends, co-workers. Economics plays a part in our distress as well as our work is affected by social distancing, even loss of jobs.

I was reminded in a history lesson recently how similar this political season is to the one experienced in the 1860s. At that time our country was severely divided, not much differently than we are now. And of course, you know the history – the Civil War, the uprooting of families, the destruction of homes, the long years of healing.

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow penned a poem months before Lee’s surrender in the Civil War. He was a widowed father of six children, the oldest of which was injured in the war. His poem, Christmas Bells, captures the tension in that season. He hears the melodious peals proclaiming peace even while cannons were firing. Longfellow expresses sadness but much like the Psalmists of old in their laments, he also turns his heart towards the ONE who is the author and finisher of our peace!

Christmas Bells

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.”

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, 1864

In celebrating Advent today, I confess that Jesus still reigns!
He is the King of Kings … the Lord of Lords!

Of the increase of his government and of peace there will be no end, on the throne of David and over his kingdom, to establish it and to uphold it with justice
and with righteousness from this time forth and forevermore.
The zeal of the Lord of hosts will do this.

Isaiah 9:7

And we know that the Son of God has come and has given us understanding, so that we may know him who is true; and we are in him who is true, in his Son Jesus Christ. He is the true God and eternal life.

1 John 5:20
Quote by Charles Spurgeon

In worship recently we sang this line, “In the absence of holiness, you are still God!” So true! Today there may be dissonance in our lives but we can consciously choose to rejoice, to testify of our Redeemer, and celebrate His sovereignty! He is ultimately the ONE in control!

As you pray today, thank God for His sovereignty! He has ushered in His new Kingdom, and will see it through to its completion! Ask God to help you quieten yourself in His presence today and to mirror to others the peace that floods your heart!

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