When I Heard The Bells

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Christmas is my absolute favorite time of year! Nothing gets me like twinkling lights, sweet spices and the music that has made the holidays magical from my childhood.

One song in particular struck a chord with us this year as my 5-year-old and I listened to choruses to decide her Christmas solo. Nearly as soon as we heard the first few notes of this lovely old carol our hearts began to swell! We knew we had found the one:

I Heard The Bells on Christmas Day

I heard the bells on Christmas day
Their old familiar carols play
And wild and sweet the words repeat
Of peace on earth goodwill to men

I thought how as the day had come
The belfries of all Christendom
Had rolled along th’unbroken song
Of peace on earth goodwill 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 goodwill 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 goodwill 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 goodwill to men

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow | John Baptiste Calkin
© Words: Public Domain
Music: Public Domain

As the truth and profound wisdom in these beautifully written words was repeated in my house day after day, I found it sinking slowly into my heart in a way it never had before.

The big night came for her to perform and, although the showmanship runs through her veins like her love of the sea, as we walked on the stage, her hands began to tremble.

During our practice she had held the microphone as bravely as ever, but because we were practicing she had been turned to face me instead of the audience. Now, with the lights shining brightly into those big hazel eyes, she pleaded with me silently.

“I’m not afraid, I’m not afraid,” I heard her whisper as I took my place at the piano.

“I’m not afraid… mommy I’m afraid!” Her lower lip began to quiver at her confession. “I don’t want to look at them, I want to look at you!”

With my heart breaking and swelling all at once from this precious child’s dilemma, I gave her a reassuring smile and said of course she could look at me. In that moment as clear as the notes my fingers began to play I heard the loving voice of my Father to my soul whispering, “Are you afraid? Don’t look at your fear… look at me.” The gravity of this rich life lesson escaped me for the moment, but it is one that has continued to resonate in my heart for weeks.

iheardbells4.jpgWith a sigh of relief she resumed her stage posture and like an angel began to sing loud and clear, “I heard the bells…”

The bells… the universal symbol for joy. How many times have I heard those bells, rung in excitement and glee, proclaiming “Christmas is here!” At every store, in every Christmas carol, these bells sing their merry way into our souls as we embrace the sweet happiness they represent. Their beauty tells of our joy, a joy that has for so many of us, originated from the unmistakable magic of Christmas. But just like every other day on the calendar, as soon as it is past, the magic fades, and most often with it, our joy.

“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.”

She was gaining momentum now, her pure sweet voice getting stronger as she anticipated the climax: the swell and modulation we had been practicing for days.

iheardbells2.jpgPeace… there is no peace on earth. Like never before we see the reach of hate and wickedness and death. How could we keep our joy in a world so blatantly set against the source of it? In a world we see so often through the lens of a photographer that paints a picture of despair and hopelessness. Through all the fear, pain, uncertainties and broken dreams it is the most one can do to stay present, to remain optimistic or at least, hardened to the realities of this harsh world. But peace? How could anyone live in peace?

“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 goodwill to men.”

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Hope…
God is not dead! The words stir hope in my heart even as I type. There is no thing on earth that can keep us from placing our hope in a God who sent his Son to die to save us and rose to life again to secure us. For although all around us is despair and destruction, our Savior – our Living Hope – has already won the war! Not our past or our present, our future or our security can keep us from accepting the free gift of salvation that Christ Jesus offers to every heart. No, “in all these things we are more than conquerors through him that loved us. For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 8:37-39 KJV)

As her sweet, sweet voice drifted off on that final note, the audience jumped to its feet in applause, and the little blonde angel beside me turned bravely to meet her former fear. Beaming proudly she took a bow, her balance slightly off from the excitement. She rushed to her greatest admirers for their hugs and kisses and praise, and although she didn’t know it, I worked to hide the tears forming in my eyes.

How would I teach this precious child to find her joy and peace and hope in God? By living that myself. Just as she learned to walk and talk, she would learn how to live in the joy her Savior offers, the peace her salvation warrants, and the hope her Father has given her in new life and an eternity with him.

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As we treasure this Christmas, my prayer for myself and for you would be that we would have the grace and strength to live the life we speak of at Christmas. To embody the principles and ideals that find their voice most prominently this time of year. And to share the hope we have in Christ Jesus, our Lord and Savior.

I never could have dreamed how just a few simple words could change my heart and impact my little world… I hope they have yours as well.

I heard the bells on Christmas day
Their old familiar carols play
And wild and sweet the words repeat
Of peace on earth goodwill to men

❤ Jasmine

{Click here to download the free printable above!}

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