Saturday, December 15, 2012

"I Heard The Bells On Christmas Day"

l had wanted to re-post this from last Christmas. In light of the tragic events of yesterday, it seems fitting.
My heart is broken about the shooting. I hope these words I wrote last Christmas will make sense today.

Merry Christmas!
 "I Heard The Bells On Christmas Day." is one of my favorite Christmas songs. I remember hearing this song for years, but I never really listened to the words until I downloaded the Bing Crosby version.
 I have three versions, Bing, Sarah McLachlan and The Carpenters. I love them all and can listen to each version one right after another.

I loved hearing church bells when I was a kid. There is something romantic and quaint about the sound. I hear mechanized bells near my house sometimes but it doesn't sound the same as those rung from a bell tower. Why don't we hear bells anymore? Is it a sound ordinance thing or have all the bells been silenced for other reasons? My school is on the grounds of a church that has since moved. We have bells that are broken and the headmaster told me the estimate to get them fixed was about 300 thousand dollars. That's a huge amount of money just to keep a charming tradition alive.

Church bells were rung to announce services, weddings, funerals or some other happening in the community. During WW II they were silenced in Great Britain only to be rung in the event of invasion. Have most of them been silenced since then?

This song is based on a poem written in 1864 by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow. The poem is based on Luke 2:24. "Glory to God in the highest and peace on earth goodwill toward men." We were a nation in the midst of the Civil War when the poem was written. But there were other things going on in the life of Longfellow as well. His journal entry for Christmas in 1862 read, "A merry Christmas say the children, but that is no more for me." That was the year his wife died.  There is no journal entry for the next Christmas. His oldest son was killed in battle in 1863. In 1864 he must have begun to heal from his grief because that is when he wrote the poem.
These are the last two verses;
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 does He sleep;
The wrong shall fail, the right prevail
With peace on earth, goodwill to men."

This song seems as applicable today as it was in 1864. The Civil War ended shortly after the poem was written. I'm sure it seemed like God was sleeping or dead during the Civil War.
This week I heard a casual mention on the news that all troops were out of Iraq after nine years. We should have had bells ringing for that!
I have had times in my life when it seems that God is asleep. I know that He is not, but He is working behind the scenes in ways I cannot see. It seemed like that last spring when my baby brother had a devastating stroke. I knew God was there, but it was too new and too painful to see what He was doing. I hope that years down the road, by His grace, He will reveal to me and to others exactly what He was up to. In the meantime, I can trust that He is here and healing just as He was healing the grief Longfellow was feeling  in the years preceding this wonderful poem. This song gives me hope and comfort. I know it did last Christmas. I probably teared up ever time I heard it, because the grief was so fresh. My brother continues to recover, by God's grace.

I love Christmas. It isn't just the trees, decorations, gifts, family, memories and traditions that I love. I love that God was not dead or sleeping when He sent His son to earth to be a sacrifice for me. God came down to earth to become man and walk among us. 
I hope you have ''heard the bells". Have a blessed and peaceful Christmas.

Sprinkled with bells and hope,

The bells are vintage.
I have seen the little porcelain bell on E-bay. It is Japanese.
Linking with,
Funky Junk Interiors
Metamorphosis Monday.
My Heart Lives Here


  1. This is a beautiful and heartfelt post, Katie Sue.

  2. Lovely post, one of my favorite songs! I am also following you!

  3. Hi Katie: This is such a wonderful post. I know only too well, that no parent should have to bury a child and it will be so hard for the parents and families in CT to get through this holiday season and beyond. It is unthinkable to me but yet I keep thinking about it. I can only imagine the thoughts they must have knowing their little ones, even though they weren't alone and it sounds like the teachers did a wonderful job in trying to keep them safe, probably did feel very alone and afraid. It certainly does take the edge off of any celebrations going on, but I did want to thank you for your kind comments to me and it looks like you have a few well loved toys of your own..Hope you are having a good weekend..Judy

    1. Thank you, Judy. I hope you are all set for Christmas.

  4. This is such a beautiful post Katie. The words of Longfellow's poem are profound. I used to live near Charleston, SC, and they still ring the church bells there. At our little church where we live now, the "bells" are recorded, but it's still reassuring to hear them during the day. I am glad that your brother is recovering, and I hope you have a blessed Christmas.

    1. Thanks, Jane. I wish we still had bells here. Merry Christmas to you.

  5. A wonderful post and so fitting for the way everyone is feeling right now.
    Thanks for posting it.
    Audrey Z.