‘Wild’ and ‘sweet’

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I heard the bells on Christmas Day

Their old, familiar carols play, 

And wild and sweet the words repeat

Of peace on earth, goodwill to men!

     – Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

What unexpected words to use for the Christmas Eve message of the angels. What is wild and sweet about the birth of Christ — the coming of the savior? Plenty.

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You and me, and the bells of Christmas

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Then from each black, accursed mouth

The cannon thundered in the South, 

And with the sound the carols drowned

Of peace on earth, goodwill 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, goodwill 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, goodwill 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, goodwill to men.”

          – Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

The three stanzas prior to the conclusion of this poem — later to become a Christmas carol — make a pretty convincing argument for despair. And I find it surprising, and somewhat shocking, that Longfellow embraces despair so strongly here. You wonder if he’s created a hole too big to climb out of. Indeed, upon first hearing it, I wondered if that last stanza is strong enough to offset the depression.

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A kinder, gentler kingdom

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“For hate is strong,

And mocks the song

Of peace on earth, goodwill to men!”

– From the poem “Christmas Bells” by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

I read an article yesterday that was both revealing and disturbing. It was about terrorism in America and it carefully and statistically outlined how the large majority of terrorist attacks in this country in the last year have been backed by white supremacy groups and loose cannons with hate-filled agendas emboldened by hate groups on the internet. Suddenly the major threat of terrorism is not coming from outside groups, immigrants and Muslims; it is coming from within. These are groups who are anti-black, anti-brown, anti-women, anti-Semitic, anti-LGBT — pretty much anyone who isn’t white and male, which can actually translate to all of us as anyone who isn’t like me. It is the spirit of the age, and it is gaining ground.

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The bells of Christmas

Christmas Bells

A poem by Henry Wadsworh Longfellow, 1863

I heard the bells on Christmas Dayth-10

Their old, familiar carols play, 

And wild and sweet the words repeat

Of peace on earth, goodwill 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, goodwill 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, goodwill to men!

 

Then from each black, accursed mouthth-9

The cannon thundered in the South, 

And with the sound the carols drowned

Of peace on earth, goodwill 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, goodwill 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, goodwill 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, goodwill to men.”

(Note: The bolded stanzas are the ones most often used as hymn lyrics.)

Henry Wadsworh Longfellow, one of America’s most revered poets, wrote the lyrics to this hymn in 1863. He was deeply saddened by the Civil War. Though it has been applied since to other wars, most notably both World Wars of the 20th century, it was the noise of the cannons of the Civil War — a war in which his son was injured — that drowned out the bells of Christmas in Longfellow’s world in 1863. “I have only one desire,” he said at that time, “and that is for harmony, and a frank and honest understanding between North and South.” 

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Drowning the ‘Humbug’ in cheer

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If I could work my will, every idiot who goes about with ‘Merry Christmas’ on his lips, should be boiled in his own pudding, and buried with a stake of holly through his heart!  – Ebenezer Scrooge

There is a reason why the overbearing curmudgeon, Ebenezer Scrooge, Charles Dickens’ famous character from his Christmas classic, The Christmas Carol, plays so well every year. There are a lot of Scrooges out there, and indeed, probably some Scrooge in all of us. I’ve certainly got a good share of his humbug spirit in me. “A fine excuse to go picking a man’s pocket every December the 25th.,” rolls right off my tongue. It’s clearly why Marti pulls out the story every year, and why we try to see the play as a Christmas family tradition. I know she is hoping some of the reformed Scrooge at the end of the story rubs off on me. Well it does, but not until the very end.

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Relationships ‘R’ Everything

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Relationships are important because love is important. Love is God’s idea, and the main ingredient for a healthy relationship. God is love, but He wanted someone to love so He made us, and He made us in His image so we could have the capacity to love back. This is why relationships are everything.

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What happened on the way to being single

[Music that Matters Radio Announcement]

John Fischer Presents: Music that Matters Radio — a presentation of music like you’ve never heard before. Forget about styles, genres, and generations. This is music from only one category: music that matters. If it matters to the heart, to the soul, to the mind or to the spirit, we’ll play it.

Anchoring the station will be a selected blend of Jesus Music from the 1970s, with personal appearances by many of these artists. But this music will merely set the stage for the transparency, honesty, and spiritual passion to be found in the rest of Music that Matters Radio. We are blending music of the boomers and the music of the millennials (and everything in-between) and finding a synthesis. Because of this our song list will be anything but static. It will grow as we find the music, as we remember it, and as it is currently written. And as you catch the wind of what we‘re doing, you can add your suggestions.

So welcome to a truly unique selection of songs you love, songs you’ll wonder about, and songs you’ve never heard before, but most of all … songs that matter.

We are live now at http://musicthatmattersradio.com . (Note: you can download the Live365.comapp and take us with you. Just open the app and search for “Music that Matters.”)

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Treat younger men as brothers, older women as mothers, and younger women as sisters, with absolute purity. (1 Timothy 5:1,2)

On August 5, 1973, while serving as a ministerial intern at Peninsula Bible Church in Palo Alto, California, I brought a message to our Sunday evening Body Life service titled “A Single Person’s Identity” on being single and single relationships that was in immediate demand as to its popularity. It was first “mimeographed” and later printed as part of the print ministry of that church, and finally, as demand continued to grow, it was made into a pamphlet and distributed by the non-profit publishing company associated with the church. Without any promotion whatsoever, orders began to flow in from all over the world. Many came in bulk. “Send us 100 copies for our singles group in Des Moines.” “Send us 300 for our Bible college.” On and on it went for at least a couple decades.

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Unbroken circle

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That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked at and our hands have touched—this we proclaim concerning the Word of life. The life appeared; we have seen it and testify to it, and we proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and has appeared to us. We proclaim to you what we have seen and heard, so that you also may have fellowship with us. And our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son, Jesus Christ. We write this to make our joy complete. 1 John 1:1-4

It’s all fitting together. We’re doing a series on relationships. Jackson was born yesterday. Christmas is coming with its celebration of the birth of Christ, and the reason for His coming. And in my current plan for New Testament reading, November 30 is the beginning of 1st John, where John states that the reason for Christ’s coming was so that they, as His disciples, could see Him and touch Him, and pass on that knowledge to us, so that ultimately their joy would be made complete — the circle being drawn, and unbroken.

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