December 19, 2012

Christmas - Wild and Sweet the Words Repeat

Christmas finds me in a very different state of mind this year. Thankful, to be sure. Blessed, most completely. Sobered? Very much so. 

I am finding my heart to be quiet as Christmas approaches. Seeing the world through the spectacles of reflection instead of anticipation. Yes, I rejoice with all Christendom as we sing, "Joy to the world! The Lord is come, Let earth receive her King!" Yet, my heart is quieter and softer as I sing those words. 

For years my favorite Christmas carol has been a lesser known song. Recently I asked a few of my friends if they knew the tune and very few of them did. The words are haunting, the melody enduring, and the story behind the original poem is lasting. Written by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow during the American Civil War, he wrote, 

 "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." 

But this year, in a spirit of quietness, I have begun to understand the emotions of the next lines. The raw agony of hope. The pain of grief. 

"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.' 

December has sobered sensitive hearts all across America. The world is watching as families mourn in Connecticut. As well as closer tears, familiar names that are now marked in stone. Only today I heard of a church family in Kansas that lost their young son. Friday found me crying as a stout prayer warrior in my life left this earth. Christmas comes quietly this year, and my heart has been tendered to the sadness that accompanies this December. 

I don't have answers. I don't have reasons why. But I have a peace that passes understanding. As grief is so blatantly displayed on the media and as I feel it so close to my heart, I am finding rest that only comes from God. This past semester has found me longing to seek solace in the arms of Christ. Longing for escape. Longing for my 40 days in the desert to pray. I am finding that desire to be answered in a different kind of quietness. A forced quietness. Situations that probe hard questions. Circumstances that have me on my knees praying. Communion with God that leaves no room for petty words or half hearted conversation. 

Emotions? To be sure.
Harsh reality? Yes.
Questions? Many. 
The assurance that God is faithful? Minute by minute it is there. 
I'll shout it, scream it, pray it...until I have no voice left to whisper the words...God is faithful.

This post may not offer any grand epiphany  It doesn't contribute to the debates about gun control. This post isn't laying out the 1-2-3 plan for how to get through the holidays or how to handle grief. Not at all. Not even close. But these are my words. My quiet, soft, words. 
If you don't believe in Jesus, this kind of faith doesn't make sense. 
It seems foolish. 
Emotional. 
A crutch. 
I know, I have heard so many of those arguments and debates before today. 
That's not why I am here to write. 
I'm here to simply say, God is faithful. 
Today, on this day, I choose to keep believing that He is good. 
As this December has come like a thief in the night, I cling to the hope that the shepherds in Bethlehem received. They had been waiting for a Savior. They were living in the darkness of the night, when they were given the word, "Today, in the town of Bethlehem, a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord." In the darkness of this world, as we anxiously await the coming of our Lord again, we remember the hope that He has brought. 


"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.'"