We all have our favorite holiday television specials that we look forward to each year. Some like the Charlie Brown specials, others the classic movies, and still others enjoy the many musical programs. I fall into the latter category and may even miss my (almost) daily N.C.I.S. marathon viewing for a good Christmas music program. My favorite each year is the Mormon Tabernacle Choir Christmas Special that blends traditional music with contemporary and always stirs my spirit with the massive choir and orchestra. This year was no different; however, one portion of the service captured my thoughts for the days since.
Actor Edward Herrmann told the story of how Henry Wadsworth Longfellow came to write the words we now know as “I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day.” The story goes that the happy Longfellow family suffered tragedy during the early 1860s when a house fire claimed the life of his beloved wife, and then shortly thereafter, Longfellow received word that his son was seriously wounded in one of the early Civil War battles and not expected to live. With his country at war with itself, and the loss of two family members, Longfellow tried to cope with these tragedies by penning the words that so strongly described his despair and lack of hope.
“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.”
If Longfellow had stopped here, this work would never have become one of the favorites of Christmas and especially one about the hope of Christmas. Over time, he and his remaining family began to heal emotionally and spiritually. Longfellow recounts that several years later as they were out on a carriage ride in the snow, he heard the bells of town churches beginning to peal and he realized that the bells were still ringing out the news of hope, of peace, and that God is still in control.
“Then pealed the bells more loud and deep: “God is not dead, nor does He sleep; the wrong will fail, the right prevail, with peace on earth good will to men.”
Just as Longfellow, people around still suffer loss and tragedies that are magnified during the Christmas and New Year holiday season. Divorce, financial hardship, death, moving, loss of jobs, many things can affect our emotions that may lead to wondering where God may be during this time. They may need someone to help direct them back to the bells of hope and a future. We can all do this either as individuals or as groups. Say a kind word to those you pass in the store, stay off the car horn if someone is a bit slow in starting when the light changes, be more patient if a crying child is in the same restaurant with you; just be nice to other people. You can also volunteer with county agencies that help others. Henry County is fortunate to have so many organizations that help others where you can plug in. Connecting Henry, A Friend’s House, Haven House, Henry County Cancer Services, The Fuller Center for Housing, Henry County Life Management Solutions, and many more.
Let 2010 be the year we give hope to others. Let 2010 be the year we become more involved outside the walls of our homes and churches (Jesus did not sequester himself inside the walls of a synagogue). Let 2010 be the year we take care of others face to face, one by one.
So for today my friends, this has been the gospel according to Jimmy.