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.
I 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.
Christmas joy. That’s what this time of year is about, isn’t it?
Last December I was in New Haven, Connecticut, and attended a Messiah sing-along with the Yale concert choir and orchestra in their marvellous chapel. This fall I joined a local choral group to perform Handel’s Messiah with another regional choir and a small local orchestra. Even though I drove nearly an hour each way for rehearsals and an hour and a half for one of the concerts, it was worth it. We gave three performances, well supported by the small-town communities.
I’m considering writing a new book: The Gospel According to George. This would be a short book aimed at music lovers from non-Christian or post-Christian cultures who enjoy Handel’s oratorio The Messiah, but have no idea what it is about.
“Comfort ye. Comfort ye my people,” Handel begins, quoting Isaiah chapter 40. But why do the people need comfort? Why is the cry of one in the wilderness, “Prepare ye the way of the Lord,” such good news?
This is not the first time that tragedy struck at Christmas. Two thousand years ago a psychopath who killed his wife and three sons, heard that his royal position might be in danger from a peasant baby. He wasn’t a pagan; he consulted Bible scholars to find out where this king was. When the foreigners he tried to dupe into spying for him didn’t return, he had no way of knowing which child. So he killed them all—every boy baby two years old and under in the whole village of Bethlehem. It wasn’t a large village. We don’t know how many children died that day.
My friend, Debi Alexander, included this in her Christmas letter. I found it so thought-provoking that I asked her permission to repost it here. Thank you, Debi.
What would happen if I couldn’t talk for nine months? How much could God say to me if I weren’t so busy organizing? What would that look like in my life? I look at Zechariah. Where he was. Where he ended up after his stint of silence. They seem to be two very different places.
No one had told her Mozambique would be hot at Christmas. Not this hot. Sweat ran down between her breasts to pool in her bra. She opened the oven door to check the turkey they had brought from Swaziland and a burst of heat scorched her face. She brushed back her damp bangs and slathered the bird with melted butter. There must be a place for the stuffing. It was her mother’s recipe, brought from a land where Christmas meant snow covered pines and afternoons at the sledding hill.
Let's start with a disclaimer: Robin Jones Gunn is one of my favorite people. I met her at a Litt-World conference in Brazil. She has a HUGE heart for women and girls. Robin began writing when the girls in her Sunday school class had nothing decent to read. She recommended some books that they loved, but when they had read those, there was nothing more to give them. So she wrote her own, taking the chapters week-by-week to her class for the girls to critique.
My husband and I worked on the archeological excavation of Beersheba in south Israel during the summer of 1976. Of course, we visited other sites while we were there. In Bethlehem we marveled at the beautifully carved olivewood nativity sets, but we were on our way to jobs in Ethiopia at the end of the summer. Carrying the pieces with us was not practical, and shipping them to our parents would not have been satisfying. We were young, and I promised myself, “Next time.”
LeAnne Hardy has lived in six countries on four continents. Her books come out of her cross-cultural experiences and her passion to use story to convey spiritual truths in a form that will permeate lives.