I have wanted to do this for some time now but it never seemed to work out time wise. So now I am going to give my best effort to write a little devotion based on a Christmas Song I really like. Some songs may be familiar to you, others you may not have heard before but each one has a special place in my heart. It was hard to narrow it down to just 12 but after lots of scratching and erasing I think I have the list ready. Who knows, it may change but you will never know because I am not putting up the list :) You will have to wait with such patience each day!
I pray these will be a blessing to each of you and the Lord will minister to your hearts throughout the next 12 days.
The first song I chose is I Heard the Bells On Christmas Day. Below are the original lyrics (minus the references to the Civil War) and also Casting Crowns version of the song.
It's such a beautiful song and I have been listening to it for a few years now. It wasn't until recently that I looked up the meaning behind the song (I honestly don't know what I would do without Google lol). Like so many beautiful hymns that were written long ago, this poem was so beautifully penned from the heart by Henry W. Longfellow. "On Christmas day, 1863, Longfellow—a 57-year-old widowed father of six children, the oldest of which had been nearly paralyzed as his country fought a war against itself—wrote a poem seeking to capture the dynamic and dissonance in his own heart and the world he observes around him. He heard the Christmas bells that December day and the singing of “peace on earth” (Luke 2:14), but he observed the world of injustice and violence that seemed to mock the truthfulness of this optimistic outlook. The theme of recurred throughout the poem, eventually leading to a settledness of confident hope even in the midst of bleak despair.
As I read this story I couldn't help but think that his thoughts and words ring true for so many, especially at Christmas time. The sights and sounds of the this joyous time. Bright lights, Christmas caroling, church and school programs, parties to attend, cookies to be made, trees to be trimmed and the excitement in the air can be quite contagious.
We hear the laughter, children carefully making their wish-lists, the smell of woodsy candles and every kind of baked goods permeate the air. The satisfaction of finding the perfect gift for that someone special in our lives makes waiting in the crowded lines seem worth it-we may even find ourselves tapping our feet to the Christmas music being piped throughout the stores.
And yet for many, there are no parties, no joy, no trying to sing on key, no longer is there that sense of accomplishment when we have found the perfect gift for that someone special. The choirs are singing of peace and yet we cannot with our eyes see any peace on earth yet alone in our own lives and hearts. There is a sense of despair, hopelessness and sadness within us.
A broken heart, perhaps a broken spirit. One that finds it challenging to look around at the well placed twinkling lights and see the Light of the World. One that sees and hears the words 'peace on earth' written on cards and sung in song but cannot sense the 'Prince of Peace' within his own heart. Perhaps listening to the naysayers as he walks about his neighborhood or gathered around the water-cooler at his work place discussing aloud if God were truly God why is there so much pain, so much evil, loneliness and heartache. Why, when we have done all to follow You, would You allow this suffering to be so? How would he answer others questions when he finds himself wrestling with the same things?
Are you there? Have you been there? In the midst of the joy and laughter all around you, you are just trying to get by. You've lost your job, your loved one passed away, you received bad news from the doctor, your family is not going to be together at Christmas. The dream of giggles and wrapping a present for your own long awaited child will not come to pass this year either.....whatever it may be. You listen to your friends talk about their plans for Christmas Day, the traditions they have and you smile on the outside and pray like crazy that no one sees the pain inside you, and you quickly find a reason why you have to be on your way because if you stand there one more minute you are going to burst into tears.
I want to picture Mr. Longfellow at his table as he writes these words. Is he writing speedily, scratching out words and replacing them with others? Are tears dripping down on the paper as he pours his heart out in prose? Are his eyes so red and tear-stained that he finds it difficult to see where one word ends and another begins? Does he in fact know that one day these very words would be put to song and fill the hearts of all who hear it with the reminder that despite what is going on in life and the world around us that there is hope-there is life and there is God?!
He writes that in despair he bowed his head.....oh my friend....I believe many of us have been there. We can no longer hold the pen, we tire of pouring our heart out in our journals, there remains no other noise but the sobs and cries pouring out from deep within. Everything we have been trying to hold back, the thoughts, the doubts and fears within the depths of our soul can no longer be contained. And we sit with our head bowed low at the table, or we grab a pillow to help drown out the pangs of despair, we lock ourselves in the bathroom-running the water so no one else can hear us and we weep and we weep some more.
But, look at the next verse-the bells were ringing louder and louder. At first, the cries from our heart were overpowering the sounds of the bells. Yet, after a time, the sobs became quieted within us. As we poured our heart out we began to surrender our own understanding, we no longer needed an explanation as to why. We could feel the warmth of the Holy Spirit comforting us with the very Word of God. We were reminded that there is no circumstance in life that God cannot help us through. We experience the God of all comfort comforting us in our sorrow. We believe once again that ALL things work together for good for those who love God. Slowly, we feel His precious hands lifting up our head, we see the bottle where He has stored each of our salty tears and though we are alone, there is that sense that His arms are so tightly wrapped around us assuring us that He is with us always and will never leave us nor forsake us. His truth once again overshadows the fears. His light once again illuminates our hearts and His peace that passes all understanding gives us the strength we need to make it through whatever comes our way.
I hope that there are church bells near where you live. (If there are no bells, maybe find an app or ringtone or something that makes the sound of a bell and set it to go off throughout your day) I pray that you will not be so busy that you cannot hear them as they ring, and that when they do, you stop and you pause no matter where you are or what you are doing and look up. Look to Him and be reminded of all the promises of God. Be reminded of His love for you and that our God is alive and powerful. Be comforted to know the Lord can fill your heart with His peace despite what is happening around you. Let the truth of God and His very words ring out loudly in your hearts and lives. Let His voice speak louder than the fears, doubts or any uncertainties that you may be experiencing in your life right now.
Peace I leave with you, My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid. John 14:27