A Civil War Poem, Crazy Shopping, and My Weary Heart
Hello, friends!! This has been a long time coming. We have been in the process of renovating and prepping our home to be put on the market. So.... all our spare moments have been involved with painting, cleaning, re-doing floors, making hardware stores runs, cleaning more, making dump runs, sorting, tossing, dropping off at the thrift store, oh- and fitting in laundry at some point in there- as well as the regular "stuff". Oh, and trying to fit in homeschooling too. It's been a little hectic, and there have been many moments where you all have crossed my mind and I think, "Tomorrow I will get to typing something up!" and then, alas, I have been distracted and busy with the other "more pressing" to-do list.
All this to say, I have missed this and you all, and want to take a few minutes now to re-set our focus- particularly as we have embarked on the Christmas season.
This really is my most favorite time of the year- everything is so pretty and decorated and lighted-up and everything. Everyone is full of anticipation and excitement and... well, to be honest... exhaustion... and busyness... and insecurity... and loss... and pain... and, well, this isn't exactly how you anticipated this going, is it?
But, it's true, It's a palpable feeling as you rush into the store with your to-do list. It's that underlying tension as you look into the tired eyes, observe the rushed orders, the long lines, and the weary bent of the shoulders.
The pressures of work, anticipation, and the never-ending to-dos rush in and threaten to squeeze every bit of enjoyment out of this supposedly joyful season. And, peace... I think that's supposed to fit in with the greetings, too, right? Oh- and hope. Maybe happiness, too?
I was thinking about all this as I listened to the song, "I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day". The text relays this message about how the listener hears the bells on Christmas which seem to peal out the sounds of "peace on earth, good will to men". The writer then goes on to woefully proclaim that "there is no peace on earth... for hate is strong and mocks the song of peace on earth, good will to men".
If you research the song, the words were written by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, who was a staunch abolitionist, but also strongly opposed to war. The Civil War was ravaging America at this time. Longfellow's own son, knowing his father's position on war, enlisted anyway and was badly wounded. The son returned home to recover, and it was during this time, Christmas came- amidst a divisive war, a conflict of beliefs, grief for so many families, and a palpable tension even in Longfellow's home due to opposing beliefs and opinions (and probably thoughts of "I told you so" and "what were you thinking?"- and so many homes across America were experiencing similar conflicts, similar pains, similar tensions that we are experiencing today. The circumstances, of course, are largely different, but the underlying emotions and struggles remain. Many people resonate with Longfellow: "then in despair I bowed my head"- where in the world is peace on earth??
I could go on and on about the conflicts facing our homes, our neighborhoods, our relationships, our churches, our work places, our government, our country.... we could sit and talk for hours about "what we should do" or "what should have been done" or "how we can solve this problem [insert problem here]".
Instead, I want to point you to Longfellow's next words in his song:
"Then pealed the bells more loud and deep/ God is not dead, nor does he sleep/ The wrong shall fail; the right prevail/With peace on earth, good will to men."
After lamenting the war, the pain, the endless cycle of despair and sorrow-filled days, Longfellow pens this truth: "God is not dead, nor does he sleep".
And then, "The wrong shall fail; the right prevail".
What parts of your heart need that truth to cling to in these days?
Have you felt alone? Abandoned? Lost in the endless shuffle of the days?
Have things felt hopeless, lonely, filled with despair?
"God is not dead, nor does he sleep."
Have you felt like nothing is going right? Like everyone and everything screams all the wrong things and that your beliefs are crumbling in your hands? Does what you believe seem to be threatened at every turn?
"The wrong shall fail; the right prevail."
This of course begs the question: "How?"
And, here is the reason Christmas can bring you hope... and peace... and joy during these tumultuous days.
In Luke chapter 1, we find a song or prayer of Mary. In this prayer, she speaks of God's mercy, of how he is going to redeem his people and to lift them up- how God will scatter the proud and bring down the mighty and exalt those of low estate. She declares how he will fill the hungry with good things. She is largely drawing her words from the truths of the prophets and Old Testament writers. At this time, the people were looking and longing for the one God had promised as the deliverer, the servant who would be their redeemer.
But, what so many people at this time were looking for was someone to deliver them from Rome's oppression. A tangible, feel-good, mighty leader who would do all the right things.
But what the people needed in those days-
And in the days of Longfellow's poem-
And in our days today-
Is a Savior.
Not from Rome's oppression-
Or the bloody ravages or war-
Or the blazing divisions of our culture's myriad of "hot-button topics".
Rather- the need is deeper.
The answer is fuller, sweeter, greater.
In I Peter chapter 1, we read that God's mercy has granted us to be the inheritors of a living hope. This hope was brought to us through the death and resurrection of Jesus who gives us this inheritance, purchased with his blood, This inheritance doesn't go away or get destroyed. It is never tarnished or broken. It is not shaken by war or opposing opinions.
And, in this inheritance, we are granted peace, knowing our future dependence and destiny is not based on something we can do, or the stuff we cross of our to-do list, or the way we lived our lives. Rather it is found in the truth that God is not dead. That he lives and has prepared a home for us in heaven.
We find it in the fact that he made himself as nothing- a tiny baby wrapped in human flesh, to bear our sins and griefs and heartaches and sorrows. And, in that most humbling of a life, we find aches and pains and hopes and fears met in the coming of that sweet babe, not to remain a baby- but to grow and become a man- a man who would die a terrible death on the cross, and in that death, be separated in a heart-wrenching reality, from his beloved Father, as the weight and guilt of the world's sin was laid on his bare, blood-soaked body. That body was then wrapped and buried, but did not remain, for he was gloriously raised, defeating all the things that have ravaged our lives since Adam's first sin. Death was defeated and life won.
This is the answer to our weary souls: "Though you have not seen him [Jesus], you love him. Though you do not now see him, you believe in him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory, obtaining the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls."
The Savior has come- he is here- he has brought us joy. Not manufactured, glitter-soaked, fading, surface-level, pasted-on happiness- but, real, abiding, lasting joy. He came to grant you living hope. To leave you peace.
Have you experienced this joy? Have you tasted of this hope that can be yours? Has the peace of God filled you?
He is not dead. He does not sleep. His truth will prevail.
Let these truths change your heart this Christmas.
Let your hearts and minds be revived in this hope that we who have believed now have.
Let his peace fill you.
We are not without hope. We are not without joy. We are not without truth.
It is here.
Take it, cling to it, let it change you.
And, may Christmas be more than just the busy, anxiety-filled, tumultuous time of the year, but a time where we remember this great salvation which has brought us REAL joy, hope, and peace- which can never be taken away from us.
Take these truths into the stores with you, press it into your mind and heart, share it with those tired eyes and weary-slumped shoulders. Let that joy speak into the hustle and bustle. Ask God to give you opportunity to share the living hope you have. We ALL need it. And, we can ALL be changed by it. And, that sweet baby is coming back, isn't he? And, this time, he will be coming back as our KING! Let's share the news, friends!
And, make this a very MERRY CHRISTMAS!
Songs for Meditation: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=haaes9anfvs