There is a song that keeps coming back to me out of the blue. It is called, "I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day." This song is based on a poem written in 1863 called "Christmas Bells." "Christmas Bells" by American poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, tells of the narrator's despair, upon hearing Christmas bells during the American Civil War, that "hate is strong and mocks the song of peace on earth, good will to men". The carol concludes with the bells carrying renewed hope for peace among men. (I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day. (2019, December 10). Retrieved from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/I_Heard_the_Bells_on_Christmas_Day.)
There is a part of the song that goes,
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!"
Sometimes it is difficult to get through the holidays. We face our own trials everyday, let alone the trials we face as the human race. At this time of the year, many of us deal with drudged up grief because of memories of a more tender and happier time when our loved ones were still with us.
It seems as we go on throughout time, hate is easier to spread as we have the tools on the Internet and social media. And this verse can ring in our heads: "For hate is strong and mocks the song of peace on earth, good-will to men..." oh so easily because it is easier for people to shout mockery and insults through a computer screen than it is for them to do it in real life--and thus, we see the ugliness that can be manifest in humanity. That alone is exhausting.
But then, when we look at that same song, we that the very last verse does a 180. Like a brisk sunrise coming up over a snow-covered hillside, that last verse is a beacon of hope:
"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.'"
In the midst of the turmoil and chaos of our world, especially in this season of a sea of endless cars in every shopping center parking lot, the exhaustion wears on us to the point where we don't really know about God, but we ourselves feel dead. In a world that demands we spend an excess of money that most of us just do not have, it is easy to forget what we are really celebrating, if we are really still celebrating at all, or simply just trying to get through the holidays. In this kind of world, it can certainly feel as though God is dead.
As we chase down trees, lights, presents, wrapping paper, parties, we neglect our very souls and neglect the God we are supposed to be celebrating--and then in all the bustle, it seems to us as if God is very distant. But, maybe, it isn't God who died, but rather, we who are dying inside because we are emptying our pockets and souls to satisfy our guilt by giving items in place of perhaps the love we know of which we should have shared more.
So, if you want expert advice, listen to this. Take a breather. Take a break. The sun does not rise and fall on whether or not you crossed the last thing off of your shopping list. Take a deep breath. Remember, you were made for so much more than satisfying the marketplace with your business. You were made for God. That is why God sent God's Son. That is what Christmas is all about. Advent is the preparation for that encounter with God.
Sit down. Relax. Meditate on the Word of God. Breathe deep. Finish preparing your soul for an encounter with God. And, in God, find the peace that so long ago, pealed the bells so loud and deep.