The rattling of sabers is loud. The fear and danger are real. The warring madness of God’s creation is palpable. While in the sanctuary, God’s people are lighting candles and speaking bold words about the promised peace that comes in Christ. Are the words of our worship simple and empty platitudes or do they have deep meaning and power in our lives? Sadly, I believe that the former is too often the truth. Like saying God has a plan to someone who has just lost a child, peace talk in the midst of war or threat of war seem like hollow words. In recent years I have had Longfellow’s poem “Christmas Bells” ringing in my ear long past the Christmas Season. His words from 1863 have been used as lyrics to the song, “I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day.” In particular the struggle between the bells that ring “Peace on earth, Good will to men” while “hate is real and mock the song.” I, like Longfellow, find my “head bowed in despair.” Even as my faith points me to the hope of peace on earth I can’t help but to be struck by the sorrow and pain that surrounds us. Longfellow wrote this poem following the death of his wife and his own severe wounding in a fire. Along with these tragedies his son was also severely wounded during a Civil War battle. These personal struggles led Longfellow to have a deep crisis of faith wondering if God was even present in this calamitous world. Rather than writing a poem that professes the death of faith, he writes a modern psalm of hope in the promise of God. The hope of the Gospel is that despite the overwhelming darkness of the world around us, the light of Christ shines through. I wonder how it is that Longfellow was able to find this hope even in his dire situation. In the end it is the fact that in despair, in times of war, hatred and even when it seems that God is dead, the bells of Christmas ring. For our age this is still the timeless truth. Today, most churches don’t have physical bells in a tower and even if they do they are kept silent. In our day the bells that ring are the lives we live. We are the bright sounding bells in a world of despair. That is what it means to be the body of Christ. (Sorry about the metaphor shift) To live the Christian faith in times of terror and fear means that we not only have to personally find the strength of our trust in the Prince of Peace, we also need to allow that strength to resound from our lives. “Then rang the bells more loud and deep God is not dead, nor doth He sleep (Peace on Earth, peace on Earth) The wrong shall fail, the right prevail With peace on earth, good will to men” I pray that in your life you might find the sounds of the bells of peace are louder than the sabers that rattle.