Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Devotion for today: "Christmas Bells"

As a reminder, I am on vacation this week and am reposting blogs which readers told me they especially enjoyed.
 "Christmas Bells"
Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
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!

A series of Christmas Day church bombings rocked Nigeria on Sunday in what appeared to be a coordinated assault by a radical Islamist sect with suspected training links to Al Qaeda, raising the sect’s violent antigovernment struggle to a new and more dangerous level that the Nigerian authorities seem powerless to contain. At least 25 people were killed.

The worst bombing was at the St. Theresa Catholic Church in Madala, a suburb of the capital, Abuja, where an explosion ripped through a crowd of worshipers as they left morning Mass. The bomb tore through the church, said Bassey Udo, a Nigerian journalist in Madala, and left a deep crater. A government spokesman, Reuben Abati, said at least 25 people were killed in that blast and that many were wounded in a chaos of fire and rubble, suggesting the toll would rise.  In Madala, there were charred bodies on the street and twisted cars burned in front of the church. Rescue workers struggling to cope with the mayhem faced a shortage of ambulances for the dozens of wounded and an enraged crowd that blocked them from entering the church until soldiers arrived. By ADAM NOSSITER
Published: December 25, 2011 The New York Times

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!"

"The LORD liveth, in Truth, in Judgment, and in Righteousness; and the nations shall bless themselves in Him, and in Him shall they glory" (Jeremiah 4:2).

"Behold, He that keepeth Israel shall neither slumber nor sleep" (Psalm 121:4).  

"To finish the transgression, and to make an end of sins, and to make reconciliation for iniquity, and to bring in Everlasting Righteousness" (Daniel 9:24).

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!"

Tom Stewart tells us: One of America's best known poets, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow (1807-1882), contributed to the wealth of carols sung each Christmas season, when he composed the words to "I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day" on December 25th 1864. As with any composition that touches the heart of the hearer, "I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day" flowed from the experience of Longfellow-- involving the tragic death of his wife Fanny and the crippling injury of his son Charles from war wounds. The first Christmas after Fanny's death, Longfellow wrote, "How inexpressibly sad are all holidays." A year after the incident, he wrote, "I can make no record of these days. Better leave them wrapped in silence. Perhaps someday God will give me peace." Longfellow's journal entry for December 25th 1862 reads: "'A merry Christmas' say the children, but that is no more for me." Almost a year later, Longfellow received word that his oldest son Charles, a lieutenant in the Army of the Potomac, had been severely wounded with a bullet passing under his shoulder blades and taking off one of the spinal processes. The Christmas of 1863 was silent in Longfellow's journal. Finally, on Christmas Day of 1864, he wrote the words of the poem, "Christmas Bells." Longfellow's Christmas bells loudly proclaimed, "God is not dead."

The message that the Living God is a God of Peace is proclaimed in the close of the carol: "Of peace on Earth, good will to men." "For it pleased the Father that in [Jesus] should all fullness dwell; and, having made peace through the Blood of His Cross, by Him to reconcile all things unto Himself" (Colossians 1:19-20). Tom Stewart, December 20, 2001, www.whatsaiththescripture.com. (This is only a summary of his excellent article)

 My thoughts: The world continues to bear bad tidings. Family members die, nation fights nation, and religious zealots kill or maim in the name of their God. Why should anyone find joy and hope at Christmas, or any time of the year for that matter? The reason is simple. Our God is a loving God, filled with mercy and kindness, and those who allow themselves to walk in His light will always overshadow those who dwell in darkness. As Longfellow realizes by the end of his poem, “The wrong shall fail, the good prevail.” Always look to the light, strengthen your resolve by holding firm to God’s word, and pray for those who follow the beat of an evil drum. God gave us the way to peace and joy on this earth. He gave us His commandments, and He sent us His Son who would spend His time on earth showing us how to love each other and live in harmony. The choice, however, rests with each individual. For peace to reign on earth, we must truly wish each other good-will. And remember, just as Longfellow eventually found the joy he so sadly lacked for many Christmases, so we, too can be confident that one day God will replace our sorrow with laughter, and wipe all tears from our eyes. Just hold onto His word, and His hand.

Scripture promises us: Rev. 21:4 And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes: and death shall be no more, nor mourning, nor crying, nor sorrow shall be any more, for the former things are passed away.

Our prayer to God: Dear God, we pray, bring light to this world. Soften the hearts of those who hate, mend the hearts torn apart by grief, and heal the wounds of sadness and despair. Let our hands and voices be the tools you use to bring your love and healing power into a hurting world. As the promises of Christmas remain in our souls, let us be joyful and rejoice that we are not lost, but found; not blind, but see. Thank you for the gift of Christ, our new-born king.  Amen

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