25 songs of Christmas: Day 2 – I Heard The Bells On Christmas Day
In keeping with the theme of celebrating Christmas in a time of trouble today’s song comes from a Longfellow poem written during the civil war. He took up his pen over the body of his wounded son at a time when our whole country was torn apart. The divisions ran deeper than state lines, clawing at the seems of every family with brother turning against brother and children rising up against parents. Neighbors took up arms against one another and blood ran like a river across battlefields great and small. Everyone was pulled into the fight as issues of authority, autonomy, and basic human decency were called into question. The obvious answer on one issue conflicted with the common sense solution to another, and every one of them carried the heavy burden of human life saved or spent. The future of an entire race of people hung plainly in the balance, and deeper, more sinister questions stirred about the soul of a nation that could subjugate its brothers and sisters.
So many of those issues still weave their way through our discourse even today. In some ways we have come so far, in others we seemed hopelessly doomed to revisit the sins of our collective fathers. And still the bells continue to ring, just as they did in the winter of 1863. They call to us still, proclaiming, “God is not dead, nor does He sleep.”
It’s a reminder to me that we, as a country, as a people of faith, as individuals have been here before. We have sought the guidance of God in the darkest hour and we have all hung our heads in despair as hate has marred the song of peace on earth and good will toward all. We have mourned, we have fallen, we have lost more than any one person can comprehend, and still the world revolves from night to day. Slowly, painfully, and rarely linearly we march, ringing, singing, as the angels did that first Christmas because Christmas is not a vacation, it is not a break from the struggle. Christmas is not a passive experience. Those bells were never meant to be a reminder of what we have, they are a call to action, a ringing testament to what we are all called to, believe, to pursue, to build.
“The wrong shall fail, the right prevail, peace on earth, goodwill to all.”