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Browsing Pastor's Notes

12/20/23 - Christmas Message

Christmas Garland with BellsDear Friends in Christ,

On Christmas Day 1863, a man from Cambridge, Massachusetts was heavily burdened. He was still mourning the death of his wife who had died in a tragic fire. More recently, he had received a telegram informing him that his eldest son was seriously wounded in battle during the Civil War. As he sat at his desk, he could hear the church bells ringing throughout Cambridge. He felt within himself a certain dissonance. How, he wondered, is it possible to experience the peace and joy of Christmas while there is so much suffering, pain, and grief?

That man, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, put pen to paper that Christmas Day and wrote the poem that we know as, “I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day.” Longfellow expresses something about the beauty of faith and about Christmas.

Perhaps at no other time during the year, do we feel the dissonance between what Christmas proposes and what the world seems to be like. Christmas promises joy, peace, goodwill, hope, and love. At this very same time of the year, we look around and are more sensitive to all the ways that those things seem to be lacking in the world. We see sorrow, conflict, grief, and despair. And yet, as Longfellow beautifully describes, faith is relentless. No matter how dark the circumstances or how heavy the burdens, the Good News keeps calling out to us. It keeps reminding us that the bad news can never conquer the indomitable power and grace of Christ’s Birth.

Fr. Sijo, our deacons, lay staff, and I wish all of you a Blessed Christmas. In a particular way, I want to single out any of you who may be feeling that dissonance a bit more this year. I pray that the joy and peace that Christ’s birth ushers in, relentlessly pursues you and sustains you. I pray that the full joy and peace of Christmas penetrates your heart in new and grace-filled ways.

A Blessed Christmas,

Fr. David Barnes

I heard the bells on Christmas Day
Their old, familiar carols play,
and wild and sweet
The words repeat
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!

And thought how, as the day had come,
The belfries of all Christendom
Had rolled along
The unbroken song
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!

Till 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!

Then from each black, accursed mouth
The cannon thundered in the South,
And with the sound
The carols drowned
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!

It was as if an earthquake rent
The hearth-stones of a continent,
And made forlorn
The households born
Of 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!”

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.”