Saturday, November 26, 2016

Christmas Bells...2016 Christmas Reflections

by Carl Larsson

Christmas Bells 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! * Till ringing, singing on its way, the world revolved from night to day, a voice, a chime, a chant sublime of peace on earth, good-will to men! * Then from each black, accursed mouth the cannon thundered in the South, and with the sound the carols drowned of peace on earth, good-will to men! * It was as if an earthquake rent the hearth-stones of a continent, and made forlorn the households born of peace on earth, good-will 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, good-will 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, good-will to men." by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow (1807-1882) 

 This poem was written during the Civil War, but it seems as if it could have been written yesterday. This is one of the poems our family is reading and reflecting on during this Advent season and almost every time I have read through it, I tear up in the last two stanzas. There doesn't seem to be much "peace on earth" right now does there? Hate is very strong and animosity is very real right now. Our nation may not be in the middle of an actual civil war, but it seems more divided than it has been in a long time. My heart has been heavy when I think of the evil and the pain and the social injustices in our country and in the world. There certainly doesn't seem to be much peace abounding these days. I have definitely bowed my head in despair a lot lately.

 Then I continue reading the last stanza and I can almost hear Longfellow shouting "God is not dead." Or maybe that's just how I read it, because I need to shout it to myself. I need this truth to get down deep into my soul. You see, I know God is not dead, but when I sink into despair and sadness I can almost begin acting and feeling as if He is. Yet, He is not! He is very much alive. He's alive and He is still in control. Although we might not be able to find much peace in this world right now, we can turn to Christ, who is the ultimate Peace. Jesus says in the Scriptures, "Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid. " Jesus gives us a peace that transcends current events and the circumstances of our lives and the world. Jesus gives a peace that passes all understanding. He gives peace to the family that just buried their baby. He gives peace to the young widow left with 3 small children. He gives peace to the refugee wandering from country to country. He gives peace to those worried about our country's future. He gives peace to those who know Him as the Prince of Peace.

 You see, "peace on earth" was forfeited when Adam and Eve first sinned in the Garden of Eden, and we've been sinning and forfeiting our peace ever since. There's always been hate, and murder, and strife. A simple survey of human history will clearly show this. There is nothing new under the sun. Yet, 2,000 years ago a man came to bring peace to each human soul. Without a relationships with Jesus, the Prince of Peace, we will know only turmoil, anxiety, and even hate at times--more often than we'd care to admit probably. But because of God's great love for mankind, He sent Jesus into this world of hate and turmoil to demonstrate His love for us. He gave Himself as a sacrifice for our sin, while we were yet His enemies. He took our sin, shame, hate, turmoil, etc. onto Himself on the cross, and when we turn to Him to follow Him and love Him, He gives us forgiveness, healing, love, and PEACE.

 Jesus gives this peace to those who turn to Him and call out to Him by faith, through His grace. For those who follow Christ, the right will prevail, because Christ prevails. He will one day make everything right and those who follow Him will enter into His eternal kingdom and we will know Him- our peace, and we will know nothing but peace for all eternity. There may not be "peace on earth", but there is peace IN Christ while we still yet live on this earth, and a perfect peace that we look forward to and long for. I pray we will all turn to Christ as our peace, some maybe for the first time ever this Christmas.

 "For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder, and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace." Isaiah 9:6

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