Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Chapter II: Twelvetide - The First Day of Christmas

Today is the beginning of Christmastide and the First Day of the Twelve Days of Christmas (also known as Twelvetide or, in some traditions, Nativitytide). Christmastide will include Epiphanytide after the end of Twelvetide for a full 40-day celebration (so don't start putting away your Christmas tree and holiday decorations just yet!) and ends on 2 February.

To celebrate each of the Twelve Days, I've decided to reflect on some of my favourite Christmas carols. I have decided all twelve, so if you'd like to make a suggestion on what your favourite carol is, please let me know!

I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day

I heard the bells on Christmas day
Their old familiar carols play
And mild and sweet their songs repeat
Of peace on earth good will to men

And the bells are ringing
Like a choir they're singing
In my heart I hear them
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

But the bells are ringing
Like a choir singing
Does anybody hear them?
Peace on earth, good will to men

Then rang 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

Then 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

And the bells they're ringing
Like a choir they're singing
And with our hearts we'll hear them
Peace on earth, good will to men

Do you hear the bells they're ringing?
The life the angels singing
Open up your heart and hear them
Peace on earth, good will to men

Peace on earth, Peace on earth
Peace on earth, Good will to men

This isn't my favourite version of I Heard the Bells - that would be Sandi Patty's from her album O Holy Night, but unfortunately I couldn't find that version on youtube.

This song is particularly powerful coming off of Advent. During Advent, as during many times in our lives, we are tempted to despair. I'm tempted to despair. At times, I'm struck with a profound depression that can cling for weeks.

Like any 21st century American, I've struggled with the question of whether God is even real. Once that storm was past, my fight has been whether He's truly a Good God, whether He truly has good will toward me, whether He loves at all and me in particular, whether He's alive or involved in the world. One of the missing verses from Casting Crowns' version discusses how Christendom has gone on for so long and seems to, perhaps, be dying. I think we Americans are, at this point in our history, particularly prone to despair when we think about the state of affairs in our country and culture - not just political, but just watching prime time TV seems to be an open mockery of Christianity in general. Has Christianity run its course?

But Christmas Day is the answer to those questions. This Season, with it's Joy and Celebration, the sheer ecstasy of knowing that God has become Man, that He is not dead, nor does He sleep - He is active and concerned about the goings on in our world, in my life...

So there is finally Peace on earth and goodwill to all men.

Merry Christmas!!!

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