“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!”
(Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, 1863)
The lines above come from my most beloved Christmas poem, “Christmas Bells” by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow (1807-1882). The poem, which was arranged as a carol in 1872, was again celebrated as a great anthem when Casting Crowns developed a new arrangement a few years ago. The carol also happens to be one of the greatest promises to us, carried on the wings of the Spirit to every heart during this, our greatest of seasons. The herald angels declared, “And on earth peace, goodwill toward men!” (Luke 2:14, NKJV).
Christmas is my favorite of all holiday seasons. In his book Miracles, C.S. Lewis called the virgin birth “the Grand Miracle.” I believe it is the miracle upon which all the miraculous is based—that the King of the universe made a choice to become one of us, to give up His rights, to become willingly subjected to those things that bind all of humanity to its life and death cycle. And He did all of this so that we could ridicule Him, deny His rightful kingship and, even in the face of His miraculous ministry, choose to crucify Him. And this He faced knowingly from the foundations of the world. This is a grand miracle, indeed!
During this season of celebrating the incarnation and birth of our Lord into the world, He models for us the truth that those who are, indeed, born again of the Spirit of God are sent agents of His everlasting light into a dying world, a world whose spin is slowing, whose time is short, and whose rebellion grows deeper with each passing moment. This is the world into which we are sent to bring His joy, life, power and salvation incarnate, His kingdom come.
The poem goes on:
“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!
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!'”
This week we are sent not only to a hurting world, but also to families and all those we hold close to the heart. We are His expression of peace and goodwill to all men. Have a very merry Christmas, indeed!
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