Monday, December 17, 2012

God is not dead, nor doth He sleep

Watching the news these past few days has been tough. The elementary school in Connecticut where those teachers and children were murdered is just a little more than two hours away from my apartment in Massachusetts. I have never been to Newtown, but it looks like so many of the idyllic New England small towns through which I have traveled this year, and it seems inconceivable that such a horror could happen there.

I cannot even imagine the pain for those families, losing a loved one so close to the holidays. And even for the many of us whose only connection to Newtown is through our televisions, there may be other reasons to have heavy hearts this year. A newly empty chair at the table, dreams that turned into disappointments, ongoing economic struggles, and so on. 

And yet there is always reason for hope. I believe that very strongly, and the Christmas season is a excellent time for all of us to take a few moments to find ways to renew hope in ourselves.

One of my favorite Christmas carols is "I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day," which takes its lyrics from the poem, "Christmas Bells," written by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow on Christmas Day, 1863. 

At the time, Longfellow was grieving the death of his wife, and his eldest son had been severely wounded fighting for the Union during the Civil War a month earlier. Despite all these reasons to "bow his head in despair," he still wrote words of hope. 

Here are the final two stanzas of the poem:
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."
I always loved how Longfellow describes the bells getting louder in response to his question, as if to both drown out his despair and illustrate how faith in God was the more powerful force: the wrong shall fail, no question.

God does not sleep, and He certainly is not dead. To anyone currently struggling with their own feelings of despair, may He help you find the faith and hope you need to get you through your troubles. God bless.

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