Walking the Yard: Raindrops and Tears

This morning I saw that the New Year’s forecast for my area is for rain and storms–not unlike some of the storms we’ve seen throughout the months of 2020.

Rose of sharon blossom dripping in the rain

This year has brought numerous flash flood warning pop-ups on my mobile phone, days of rain that have left the ground with pools of standing water and with wind gusts that have rattled the windows and scattered broken branches on the driveway and yard.

In a figurative sense, most of us would describe the year 2020 as a storm that has left a trail of debris and casualties in its wake. It’s been a tough one for most of us. But sometimes the storms we’ve experienced this year have been internal where the tears have fallen like rain in the dark of the night when no one else is around to hear the sobs muffled by our tear-dampened pillows. We cry alone and wonder if anyone knows or cares.

But then I step out into the yard after a rain, and I see collected on every leaf, petal, and blade of grass the evidence of the storm–evidence in the form of raindrops sparkling like diamonds, bedazzling the blossoms and trees that have gathered them.

Iris in the rain

As I see those raindrop collections shining from the leaves in the yard, I know that my teardrops too are seen and known. I am reminded of the words of the psalmist: “You keep track of all my sorrows. You have collected all my tears in your bottle. You have recorded each one in your book” (Psalm 56:8 NLT). Jesus, our Savior, who himself wept, cares about our burdens and sorrows. We are not alone! He holds our tears, precious to Him as diamonds. Sometimes it is in those “dark nights of the soul” that we learn valuable lessons about trusting even in the dark when we cannot see what lies ahead.

Years ago Gordon Jensen wrote the song “Tears Are a Language” that expresses how much God does see, know, and care about our grief and tears.

Often you wonder why tears come into your eyes
And burdens seem to be much more than you can bear
But God is standing near, He sees your falling tears
And tears are a language God understands.

Japanese maple leaves bedazzled with raindrops

God sees the tears of a brokenhearted soul
He sees your tears and hears them when they fall
God weeps along with man and He takes him by the hand
Tears are a language God understands.

When grief has left you low it causes tears to flow
When things have not turned out the way that you had planned
But God won’t forget you His promises are true
And tears are a language God understands.

God sees the tears of a brokenhearted soul
He sees your tears and hears them when they fall
God weeps along with man and He takes him by the hand
Tears are a language that my God He understands.

If we flip to the back of the Book, we can know the conclusion even as some of the details of our individual stories are still playing out. “And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, ‘Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. “He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death” or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.’ He who was seated on the throne said, ‘I am making everything new!’ Then he said, ‘Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true'” (Revelation 21:3‭-‬5 NIV).

Someday the crying will cease, the tears will be wiped away, and we will be forever with the One who has forever been with us even on our darkest nights. Oh, what a day that will truly be!

Raindrops on roses

Walking the Yard: How Much More…

by Rebecca D. Higgins

The lenses a photographer chooses to use make a big difference on how the subject matter is seen. A wide-angle lens takes in the big picture while a macro lens enlarges little details. Both have their place in photography, and both lens types have their metaphorical place in life.

A dandelion seedhead dampened by early morning dew.

In a year like 2020 with so many unexpected interruptions and crises that wreaked havoc on our big-picture plans, focusing on smaller details became the stuff of our everyday lives. Shopping–whether online or in the stores–revealed a sense of urgency people had to obtain the little but necessary items. Empty meat counters and bare toilet paper and cleaning supply aisles became a visual testimony of people’s worries about the availability of basic necessities.

But as I walked the yard, my own personal list of worrisome questions clamored for answers. I won’t reiterate all those questions here because, as I already stated, they’re personal. However, I readily acknowledge there were many days that I physically felt the anxiety in my chest and the pit of my stomach. But that was when the macro view actually became a blessing.

The tiny blossoms of bluets provide a colorful contrast to the green grass.

I always kept my eyes open to see a splash of contrasting color in the grass that would indicate the presence of a wildflower. Dandelions and bluets, violets and daisies are just a few of the delicate petals that appeared throughout this year. Sometimes the best way to photograph the intricate details of such tiny specimens is to change my posture to kneel or to lie prone in the grass even though I admit the stiffness in my joints makes it much harder to get back up than it did a few years ago. On my knees or on my stomach I am afforded a better view of the variety of amazing designs the Creator has made that we rarely stop long enough to notice. By bending to that position I am reminded that a posture or attitude of humble submission is always the place to start in seeking God and His kingdom.

Flowers weren’t the only source of colorful variety on my pilgrimages in the yard this year. A long list of feathered friends also became points of focus. I watched as robins hopping on the grass tilted their heads before digging in the dirt and coming up with a juicy worm for a nice meal for their family. The contented songs of birds in the cherry trees led me to observe their enthusiastic feasting on the tiny fruit. Every time I observed chickadees up close, their little beaks seemed to be stuffed full with seeds.

A catbird enjoying a spring feast.

Everywhere I looked around the yard were reminders of a benevolent Creator who cares about the tiniest details. As I observed, my thoughts drew me once again to Matthew 6 where Jesus admonishes His followers not to worry.

That is why I tell you not to worry about everyday life—whether you have enough food and drink, or enough clothes to wear. Isn’t life more than food, and your body more than clothing? Look at the birds. They don’t plant or harvest or store food in barns, for your heavenly Father feeds them. And aren’t you far more valuable to him than they are? Can all your worries add a single moment to your life?

Just as I prepared to snap this photo of a perfect daisy, a tiny bee landed and added to the composition.

And why worry about your clothing? Look at the lilies of the field and how they grow. They don’t work or make their clothing, yet Solomon in all his glory was not dressed as beautifully as they are. And if God cares so wonderfully for wildflowers that are here today and thrown into the fire tomorrow, he will certainly care for you. Why do you have so little faith?

“So don’t worry about these things, saying, ‘What will we eat? What will we drink? What will we wear?’ These things dominate the thoughts of unbelievers, but your heavenly Father already knows all your needs. Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and live righteously, and he will give you everything you need” (Matthew 6:25-33 NLT).

It’s not by accident that these words of Jesus appear in the same chapter as His sample prayer that includes the words, “Give us this day our daily bread.” It’s interesting to note that the prayer doesn’t include a plea for a ten-year plan. Instead, Jesus focused on daily needs. When we come to God in a humble posture on a daily basis–not weekly, not monthly, not yearly–we acknowledge our utter dependence upon Him and not our own ideas and plans. Our life was formed by Him, and we can trust the continuing details into His hands as well. He cares for the birds and the wildflowers beautifully, but He has made it clear that those examples are just reminders of how much more precious we are in His sight and that He cares for us. With those visual reminders in the yard, I found myself singing the lyrics of the old gospel song “His Eye Is on the Sparrow,” not always because I felt happy and free but as an act of faith that proclaimed even in uncertain times: “I know He watches me.”

  1. Why should I feel discouraged, why should the shadows come,
    Why should my heart be lonely, and long for heav’n and home,
    When Jesus is my portion? My constant Friend is He:
    His eye is on the sparrow, and I know He watches me;
    His eye is on the sparrow, and I know He watches me.
    • Refrain:
      I sing because I’m happy, I sing because I’m free,
      For His eye is on the sparrow, and I know He watches me.
  2. “Let not your heart be troubled,” His tender word I hear,
    And resting on His goodness, I lose my doubts and fears;
    Though by the path He leadeth, but one step I may see;
    His eye is on the sparrow, and I know He watches me;
    His eye is on the sparrow, and I know He watches me.
  3. Whenever I am tempted, whenever clouds arise,
    When songs give place to sighing, when hope within me dies,
    I draw the closer to Him, from care He sets me free;
    His eye is on the sparrow, and I know He watches me;
    His eye is on the sparrow, and I know He watches me.
    (Lyrics by Civilla D. Martin)
Most of the time the chickadees would alight in the Japanese maple near the house, their beaks would be stuffed with seeds.

Walking the Yard: Light in the Darkness

by Rebecca D. Higgins

When the world came to a screeching halt in March of 2020 with stay-at-home orders put into effect, I began to walk around the yard with my camera almost on a daily basis. It was a purposeful decision. I didn’t want my only focus to be on the news and social media. Over a number of years I have learned that the observation involved in nature photography has helped me to see better in general. And with all of the confusion of this year, seeing better became not just a priority but a necessity.

The contrast of light and shadows.

Dorothea Lange, a Depression-era photojournalist, wisely remarked, “The camera is an instrument that teaches people how to see without a camera.” I’ve found that to be true. Ms. Lange explained her statement further: “This benefit of seeing…can come only if you pause a while, extricate yourself from the maddening mob of quick impressions ceaselessly battering our lives, and look thoughtfully at a quiet image…the viewer must be willing to pause, to look again, to meditate.” What better time than in the midst of a pandemic to put that into daily practice by observing what I could see just in the boundaries of the yard!

Light is one of the key components in photography. When I am out and about in nature, I find myself looking for the natural light source or a unique contrast of light and shadows. In a year when so much has contributed to the darkness in our world, finding the light in the midst of the darkness has become even more compelling. In my walks in the yard, I have found myself especially fascinated by the backlit or sidelit images of blossoms and leaves. It’s as though they are lit from within. Color becomes more vibrant. The minute details of their life-sustaining veins come into sharp focus. But this is never more apparent than when the surrounding leaves or blossoms are in shadow. The contrast is striking.

The backlit beauty of maple seeds and leaves.

Throughout this year I have been blessed to observe people who exude light even in the midst of the darkness. In spite of sickness, loss of loved ones, and extremely difficult circumstances, they have shone brightly because they have the Light of Christ within them.

Several years ago I visited the Cathedral Basilica of the Assumption in Covington, Kentucky. Its facade is patterned after Paris, France’s famous Notre Dame Cathedral, and it is adorned with 82 colorful stained-glass windows depicting scenes in the life of Jesus and the church. The beauty, colors, and details of those windows are not readily seen by those passing by on the street during the day. But when night falls and the lights within the cathedral shine through those meticulously crafted windows, their beauty radiates to all. Elisabeth Kübler-Ross observed, “People are like stained-glass windows. They sparkle and shine when the sun is out, but when the darkness sets in, their true beauty is revealed only if there is a light from within.”

The darkness of this year has certainly revealed the true beauty of some of those who carry the Light within. They are like the jars of clay about which the Apostle Paul wrote in 2 Corinthians 4:5-10 NLT:

You see, we don’t go around preaching about ourselves. We preach that Jesus Christ is Lord, and we ourselves are your servants for Jesus’ sake.  For God, who said, ‘Let there be light in the darkness,’ has made this light shine in our hearts so we could know the glory of God that is seen in the face of Jesus Christ. We now have this light shining in our hearts, but we ourselves are like fragile clay jars containing this great treasure. This makes it clear that our great power is from God, not from ourselves. We are pressed on every side by troubles, but we are not crushed. We are perplexed, but not driven to despair. We are hunted down, but never abandoned by God. We get knocked down, but we are not destroyed. Through suffering, our bodies continue to share in the death of Jesus so that the life of Jesus may also be seen in our bodies.” 

Paul and this cloud of clay pot witnesses urge each of us in the midst of a trying year to hold fast to the Light of Jesus. Many still walking in darkness are searching for hope and the Light that will dispel the darkness. “That is why we never give up. Though our bodies are dying, our spirits are being renewed every day. For our present troubles are small and won’t last very long. Yet they produce for us a glory that vastly outweighs them and will last forever! So we don’t look at the troubles we can see now; rather, we fix our gaze on things that cannot be seen. For the things we see now will soon be gone, but the things we cannot see will last forever” (2 Corinthians 4:16-18 NLT).

Perhaps it is because we have just experienced the “Christmas Star,” the confluence of the planets Saturn and Jupiter, but as I have written these observations today, the words of the following song have been replaying in my mind:

I was a seeker alone in a dark world,
I looked for truth but settled for lies.
I had been blinded, I couldn’t see
Till a Star in Bethlehem’s sky opened my eyes.

I have seen the Light shining in the darkness,
Bursting through the shadows, delivering the dawn.
I have seen the Light whose holy name is Jesus,
His kingdom is forever; He reigns on Heaven’s throne!

There in a manger, an innocent baby;
Who would believe that He was the One;
I can believe it, I know it’s true;
He changed my life; He is the light; He is God’s Son!

I have seen the Light shining in the darkness,
Bursting through the shadows, delivering the dawn.
I have seen the Light whose holy name is Jesus,
His kingdom is forever; He reigns on Heaven’s throne!

We must tell the world what we’ve seen today in Bethlehem!
He’s the promised King; we bow down and worship Him!
We will Worship Christ The King!

I have seen the Light shining in the darkness,
Bursting through the shadows, delivering the dawn.
I have seen the Light whose holy name is Jesus,
His kingdom is forever; He reigns on Heaven’s throne!

(Authors: Chris Machen, Robert Sterling)

Lord, may we always be seekers of the Light, and may our lives display that true Light of Christ to those around us even when surrounded by the darkness.

A sunburst through the trees on the edge of the driveway early on Easter Sunday morning 2020.

The Beauty of Little Things

by Rebecca D. Higgins

How many times do we miss the intricate beauty of small things in our search for the big?

Last week I made my way along a North Carolina section of the Blue Ridge Parkway anticipating the expansive sweep of scenic mountain vistas decorated in their vibrant autumn hues of red and gold. From my car window I spied an opening where the mountains and valleys were awash with color.

Unfortunately, at that spot there was no place to pull over, but I was happy to find one of the many overlook pullouts just a short distance down the road. I was disappointed, however, to find that the view I had observed from my car window was obscured at the overlook. No problem! I grabbed my camera and hiked back along the road I had come, intent on finding that sweeping mountain view. But as I trudged through wet leaves and weeds in my search for the big panorama, I discovered a tiny gem hiding in the dirt and weeds. A little bud of a wildflower I did not recognize was peeping up amongst the weeds in the ditch.

I paused to observe and capture its delicate charm with my zoom lens, and I was reminded once again that I should never pass over the beauty of small things in my search for the big. Mountaintop views are not the only place to find beauty. If we keep our eyes open, sometimes we are surprised by little treasures hiding in the ditches of life.

Cloudy Days

by Rebecca D. Higgins

One of the features that I like about Facebook is that each day it pulls up memories of things you have posted on that date in previous years.

This morning in the midst of the turmoil of the Covid 19 crisis, I was reminded of a beautiful truth as I read a memory from 2015.

March 26, 2015

The last couple of mornings as I drove to work, I was privileged to be a front-row observer of spectacularly beautiful sunrises.

This morning was a different story. The rain had already started when I stepped out of my apartment and headed to my car. As I merged onto the interstate, the clouds were heavy and dark, and the rain poured, greatly limiting visibility. But then I saw it! A glance to the east revealed a glow through the clouds where the sun was still rising as it does every day. It was a beautiful reminder that even when the storm clouds are darkest and dump rain on our lives, the sun is still there. The storm won’t last forever, and we WILL see the sun burst through the clouds in time.

If you’re facing a storm today, just know that the SON is still there even if the clouds seem to obscure Him momentarily from your view. Trust Him in the dark, and you will once again see His Light burst through the clouds to guide your way.

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Choose Kindness!

by Rebecca D. Higgins

It’s the end of the grading period at our school, and like English and history teachers everywhere I still have a stack of papers waiting to be graded. I had decided earlier that I was going to stay late tonight and tomorrow to work in my classroom since I have more room to spread out there.

Students and fellow teachers left, and the cleaning crew arrived. Suddenly, the weakness that comes from eating snacks instead of actual meals set in, and I knew I had to take a break and get something more substantial to eat.

I headed up the street to a local Mexican restaurant. As I was led to a booth, I saw that a young couple with a toddler were seated behind me. Perusing the menu, I found myself squinting through tired eyes made blurry by a long day of reading papers and computer screens.

Suddenly, an ear-piercing shriek erupted directly behind me. My first inward thought was “Oh, dear! I’m too tired to eat my meal with a baby wailing in my ear!” But then I stopped and reminded myself that the toddler’s parents certainly didn’t want to hear it either, and I needed to respond with kindness.

IMG_20191018_151740I turned slightly and spoke over my shoulder. “It sounds like someone is tired,” I commented.

“It’s more likely that she’s breaking in a new tooth,” was the father’s reply.

“Oh, that’s even more reason to cry!” I sympathized.

There was a slight lull in the angry cries before they resumed once again at a high decibel almost directly in my ear as the child was held against her father’s shoulder behind me.

“I’m sorry for the loud screams in your ear,” the father apologized.

“That’s okay,” I told him. “Children are children, and they cry when they need to. Don’t worry about it.”

After a few more minutes, the mother got up and took the distressed toddler outside. Dad boxed up their leftovers and in a few moments headed towards the door himself. As he passed my table, he turned and said, “Have a good night.”

“Thank you. You, too!”

I continued the rest of my meal with the quiet murmur of adult voices around me. As I savored the last morsel of my food, the waitress approached to ask if I needed more water. “No, I’m fine. Thank you!”

She lingered. “Also,” she smiled as she said, “the couple who was sitting behind you paid for your meal!”

Choose kindness!

Carry Me

by Rebecca D. Higgins

“To you, O Lord, I lift up my soul; in you I trust, O my God” (Psalm 15:1-2a NIV).

 

“CARRY ME!” I looked at the trusting eyes and outstretched arms of my two-year-old second cousin Michelle; and without hesitation, I did what she asked. When I saw the frailty of Michelle’s leukemia-ridden body, there wasn’t anything that I wouldn’t have done for her.

It was summer 1975, and my family was in South Carolina for a few days of vacation with relatives. On this particular day, we had taken Michelle and her grandmother to visit a distant cousin. While the adults chatted inside the house, my sister and I entertained Michelle with a game of hide-and-seek in the yard. But Michelle’s weakened state caused her to tire easily and prompted her request to be carried.

Suffer the Children resizedLater, in the car, as Michelle’s childish voice sang the words, “Little ones to Him belong, they are weak but He is strong,” I thought how true it was for Michelle.

It was then that it dawned on me what Christ meant when He said, “Unless you become as little children, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven.” He wants us all to have the simple trust of a child that recognizes her own weakness and who relies solely on a greater strength.

I haven’t forgotten that lesson in trust, and so I often whisper, “Lord, I’m weak, but You’re strong, so . . . please, carry me!” I rest assured knowing that I am sheltered in His loving arms.

Thought for the day: Trust is surrendering ourselves completely into God’s arms without trying to get down and walk on our own strength.

(This devotional first appeared in Light from the Word, Fall 1989, Vol. 38, No. 1., published by Wesleyan Publishing House, P.O. Box 50434, Indianapolis, Indiana 46250.)

Christmas Decorating: True Confessions

by Rebecca D. Higgins

On November 30, I pulled the Christmas tree and decorations out with good intentions of creating a warm, cozy Christmas atmosphere in my apartment. But I have a confession to make! My tree didn’t get decorated until yesterday—December 22! Oh, I put the tree together earlier, but when I tried the lights, the same problem that seems to occur most years had happened once again. Seemingly half of the lights were dark. I really am beginning to think that to entertain themselves in the box after they have been put away each year they have “fight nights” until it literally is “lights out” for the losers!

Christmas tree lights

At the time of discovering this light problem, I was too busy and distracted by other things to be bothered with trying to track down the bulb that caused others to go out or to go to the store to buy replacements. I finally got around to trying to do the latter this week. Guess what?!! Stores are completely sold out of strands of white Christmas tree lights the week before Christmas. If you want icicle lights for the outside of your house, you can buy those. If you want strands of the large colored bulbs like we used to have when I was a kid, you can buy those, but nowhere—and I mean nowhere—could I find strands of the miniature white Christmas tree lights!

At this point I seriously considered taking my tree apart and putting it away, but the truth is I love Christmas decorations too much to do that. So yesterday, I found the strands of lights that had the least amount of burnt-out bulbs and figured a way to put them on my tree so that it wouldn’t be noticeable. I marked a section of one strand in which the bulbs were burnt out. That section got stuffed into the center of my tree in the back (since my tree stands in a corner and not in a front window). Once the lights were on in a way that looked okay, I proceeded with the rest of the ornaments. The ones that are my favorites were put on the front of the tree, and some that have become scratched and don’t look as nice joined the burnt-out lights on the backside of my tree.

I was reminded as I performed this Christmas subterfuge of just how much we behave this way in life. We hang the best of ourselves out where people can see just how wonderful we are—our list of do-good activities, our gifts, our amazing social media status updates– while stuffing the burned-out lights and broken ornaments in the back corners where we hope no one notices. Those are the parts of our lives that are an utter mess. (As I typed the previous sentence, my fingers accidentally typed “lies” instead of “lives.” Hmm, maybe my fingers have a point!)

So, why, you may ask, am I writing about this on Christmas Sunday? Couldn’t I have found a more Christmasy, cozy topic on which to focus my attention? The truth is, this IS about Christmas. As much as we try to hide our mess from others, it is into the mess that Christ came. Our beautiful crèches and Nativity scenes clean up and sanitize Christ’s birth, but He was not born into a barn that had been creatively converted by a makeover team into a beautifully, rustic living space. Next to the manger on which His young mother laid him, was the manure and urine of the animals that sheltered in the stable. The rough shepherds who were his first visitors didn’t scrub in and don sterile hospital gowns, gloves, and masks. Dirt from the Judean countryside was caked under their fingernails, and the ripe odors of the outdoors and animals clung to their soiled clothes.

That description of Jesus’ arrival is just one of the ways that God shows us that Jesus came into the mess of our world to make it right. He doesn’t want us to attempt to hide our mess and sin from Him. It’s a futile activity! Though we may on occasion have some success in hiding such from others, He sees and knows us–nothing is hidden from Him! The Christmas message is that into that filthy, unholy mess of our lives stepped a righteous and holy Savior—One who can take what is broken and make it whole, One who can take what is shameful and offer pardon and forgiveness, One who can take what is dark and make it light.

In Romans 8, Paul writes about this transformation. The Message paraphrase puts it this way:

“God went for the jugular when he sent his own Son. He didn’t deal with the problem as something remote and unimportant. In his Son, Jesus, he personally took on the human condition, entered the disordered mess of struggling humanity in order to set it right once and for all. The law code, weakened as it always was by fractured human nature, could never have done that. The law always ended up being used as a Band-Aid on sin instead of a deep healing of it. And now what the law code asked for but we couldn’t deliver is accomplished as we, instead of redoubling our own efforts, simply embrace what the Spirit is doing in us. Those who think they can do it on their own end up obsessed with measuring their own moral muscle but never get around to exercising it in real life. Those who trust God’s action in them find that God’s Spirit is in them—living and breathing God! Obsession with self in these matters is a dead end; attention to God leads us out into the open, into a spacious, free life. Focusing on the self is the opposite of focusing on God. Anyone completely absorbed in self ignores God, ends up thinking more about self than God. That person ignores who God is and what he is doing. And God isn’t pleased at being ignored. But if God himself has taken up residence in your life, you can hardly be thinking more of yourself than of him. Anyone, of course, who has not welcomed this invisible but clearly present God, the Spirit of Christ, won’t know what we’re talking about. But for you who welcome him, in whom he dwells—even though you still experience all the limitations of sin—you yourself experience life on God’s terms. It stands to reason, doesn’t it, that if the alive-and-present God who raised Jesus from the dead moves into your life, he’ll do the same thing in you that he did in Jesus, bringing you alive to himself? When God lives and breathes in you (and he does, as surely as he did in Jesus), you are delivered from that dead life. With his Spirit living in you, your body will be as alive as Christ’s!” (Romans 8:3-11 MSG).

And, that, my friends, is really “Good News” this Christmas! So, from one “mess” to the rest of you messes out there, Merry Christmas! We have a Savior—Jesus Christ, the Lord!

The Message of the Bells

by Rebecca D. Higgins

christmasbells1 (2)The gold-plated weighted stocking hangers on my mantle are letters that spell out the word J-0-Y. I’ll be honest–this past week “Joy to the World” hasn’t exactly been the song bursting from my lips! While Scripture talks about making a joyful noise to the Lord, I’m not sure that the noises that have been emitting from my mouth have sounded joyful at all. Can groans and moans be joyful?

The groaning has come not only in response to excruciating physical pain caused by a kidney stone, but also as I have heard reports this week from various places of pain inflicted on others by injustice and hasty judgments and as I contemplate the wars still impacting so many in our world. It hurts me to see others hurt.

I find myself identifying this Christmas season with the poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow (a lifelong favorite, by the way). After the death of his beloved wife Fanny in a tragic fire that left the poet badly burned and scarred in 1861, Longfellow lost a bit of his ability to get into the Christmas spirit. In his 1861 journal, he wrote, “How inexpressibly sad are the holidays.” The following year still suffering from his personal loss and the ravages of the ongoing Civil War, his Christmas journal entry was stark: “A Merry Christmas say the children, but that is no more for me.” There was no journal entry the following Christmas, the year that his oldest son Charles, a lieutenant in the Union army, was severely injured in the war.

On Christmas Day in 1864, as Longfellow awoke to the sound of church bells, a joyous sound that seemed to be mocking him, all of the emotions of the past few years pressed in as he wrestled with faith in the midst of sorrow and injustice. He penned the words to a poem he titled “Christmas Bells.” His melancholy mood comes through in the words, “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, goodwill to men.” And I will admit that sometimes in weeks like this those words do seem to express reality.

However, as the bells continued to ring–their song of hope, of joy, of peace–Longfellow was reminded that the message of Christmas is that God in His love and mercy did not turn a blind eye or a deaf ear to a groaning, moaning world filled with injustice and hate. Instead, He entered it as one of us. He came as the Prince of Peace but suffered through false accusations, a mock trial, an excruciating death, but a triumphant resurrection. In so doing, He became our Redeemer.

In listening to the song of the bells Longfellow was finally able to state with faith and certainty what he knew to be true no matter what things “seemed” to be–a fact that is still true for us today. “God is not dead, nor doth He sleep. The wrong shall fail, the right prevail with peace on earth goodwill to men.” We may not see the right prevail exactly at the time we would choose, but one day all WILL be made right and PEACE will reign!

“For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the increase of his government and peace there will be no end. He will reign on David’s throne and over his kingdom, establishing and upholding it with justice and righteousness from that time on and forever. The zeal of the Lord Almighty will accomplish this” (Isaiah 9:6-7 NIV).