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Ring Christmas Bells

181. Ring Christmas Bells

The third Sunday of Advent often has a theme of Joy and to acknowledge that I hang bells on every door knob so that as I and others go in and out of the doors, the bells ring and remind us of the light of Christmas.

I have several interpretations of bells. One is the one I just mentioned—the light and the joy of the birth. The second is the tradition of the bells story. That old tradition says that Jesus was born at midnight—those moments when there is a minute of the last day, followed by the minute of the next day.

And so we are told that there was an English custom to toll sad and mournful bells from eleven until twelve on Christmas Eve. And then at the stroke of midnight, the bells would change to peal with joy to welcome the Christ.

And the third story of bells has to do with Henry Wadsworth Longfellow. His son had been wounded in the Civil War. He brought him back to care for him and on Christmas Day sat down and wrote “I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day.”

The verses are here. Read them aloud—listen to the words of the bells finally swinging back and forth in triumph over despair. It’s good for me to remember that it is still true.

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.

And thought how, as the day had come,

The belfries of all Christendom

Had rolled along th’unbroken song

Of peace on earth, good will to men.

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.”

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.”

Till ringing, singing on its way,

The world revolved from night to day,

A voice, a chime, a chant sublime,

Of peace on earth, good will to men!

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow


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