I Heard the Bells (an introduction to why I want you to join me in re-thinking the way we celebrate Christmas)
One of my favorite Christmas carols of all time is “I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day.” It’s beautiful, almost haunting at times as the song weaves the cosmic weight of the holiday with the traditional occurrences of celebration.
“Then pealed the bells more loud and deep
God is not dead nor doth He sleep
The wrong shall fail and the right prevail
with peace on earth good will to men”
It’s easy to get caught up. To lose the weightiness of Christmas in the soreness of our arms and backs from toting around shopping bags and suitcases and children strung out on one too many Christmas cookies. But the bells still ring. Sometimes loud and deep from church steeples and sometimes shrill and soft and chiming on registers as yet another debt collects on our cards.
“God is not dead nor doth He sleep.”
We can’t always here it. The muzak blares. The crowds rush. Bearded men in red velvet suits call out and our children squeal out of joy or terror, or some debilitating blend of the two.
“The wrong shall fail, the right prevail, peace on earth. Peace on earth.”
It takes effort to hear it.
It takes time to notice it.
And those are two things that we simply have not enough of around the holidays.
We have stress and headaches, heartaches and annoyances a plenty.
We so desire for it to just be perfect! A page straight out of Martha Stewart or Better Homes and Gardens.
There are Pinterest projects galore to be completed.
Family we may or may not get along with to see.
And the gifts, oh the gifts!
Buying, wrapping, putting away, installing, organizing. MORE BATTERIES!
Target reminds us each time we rush in because we forgot to pick up toilet paper that Christmas is really only X number of days away.
This year though, let’s resolve that among us, it will be different.
This year we will remember that our reason for celebration is that God put on skin and moved into our neighborhood.
Into our mess, our stress, our too busy, eating-string-cheese-and-gingerbread-cookies for dinner lives.
In the spirit of this season, I want to celebrate not by engaging in the lie that I need more, my daughter needs more, my husband needs more.
I want to celebrate the reminder that there is enough. The debts are paid and we are being made whole once again, the latest, greatest and shiniest aside.
This season, I want to celebrate not by maintaining expectations and status quo.
I want to celebrate in a way that remembers the story of a Messiah who was the last thing people expected, who unapologetically broke social mores, who turned over tables in the house people had built to honor Him.
This season, I want to celebrate by echoing the declaration of Christ in the book of Luke
“The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,
because the Lord has anointed me.
He has sent me to preach good news to the poor,
to proclaim release to the prisoners
and recovery of sight to the blind,
to liberate the oppressed,
and to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”
Good news to the poor. Release for those in captivity. Liberation for the oppressed.
Rejoice! Messiah is here!
This season, I want to hear the bells, but I want to ring them as well.
Sound it from the highest steeples, the retail cash boxes, the twinkling ornaments, the chiming of neighbors at our doorstep.
God is not dead nor doth He sleep.
No, and indeed God is making all things new
Setting all things right.
Because the Spirit of the Lord has been poured out
and a declaration is going forth to the poor, the captives, the oppressed.
Release, recovery, liberation.
This is Christmas.