God is not dead nor doth he sleep (a #TBT post)

No one remembers – or is alive who remembers – if it was cold in New England on Christmas Day in 1863, but the country itself was in the cold grip of the Civil War. Long years of war had taken its toll on homes both Union and Confederate. This Christmas, sons were at war or imprisoned or dead or injured or ill.

Henry’s son, Charley, had been one of the injured and the ill, surviving both a bout of malaria and a bullet wound in the back.  A single father of five who lost his wife when her clothes accidentally caught fire a few years earlier, Henry had been heartbroken but resigned when Charley ran away to join the Union Army.

“I shall not send for him,” Henry wrote in his journal. “He is where he wants to be, in the midst of it all.”

Nonetheless, he crossed through army lines to reach to his son’s bedside when he  was wounded in late November 1863 and brought him home.

Henry may have recalled the pain not only of his own grief and concern, but also that of a nation when he penned his poem, Christmas Bells on that Christmas Day.

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!”

Henry was famed American poet, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow. Years later, two stanzas were removed from his poem as it was set to music and became the carol we know as “I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day.”

The carol first came to mind when evil walked into a shopping mall in Oregon, killing two people. It played loudly through my mind on Friday when evil walked into a Connecticut elementary school.

For some time, I was stuck on the line about hate being strong and mocking the song of peace on earth.

Then, I remembered the triumphant final stanza. God is not dead. He’s not sleeping. Wrong will fail. Right will prevail. There will be peace on earth.

Longfellow saw that. His son recovered from his wounds. A long-awaited peace finally came after years of war.

But he didn’t see it right away. He didn’t know it when he put pen to paper that Christmas morning.

We don’t see it either. We don’t know why things happen as they do. We just mourn with those who mourn and weep with those who weep.

And God’s not dead. He’s not sleeping.

In that we place our hope as Christmas comes.

 

These Throwback Thursday (#TBT) posts are some of my favorites from previous blogs presented here with only the slightest editing. This post originally appeared on an older blog on December 20, 2012.

Wednesday Selah: The Thrill of Hope (Advent Hymn)

The season is upon us.

Stores have had their Christmas goods out for weeks now, competing with both Halloween candy and Thanksgiving decorations, but now the season begins in earnest. Some have already been battling crowds for Black Friday bargains, and others have been glued to the screen for online deals.

The calendar is filling with concerts, services at church, opportunities to serve at holiday events to help others, and all types of gatherings.

I don’t know about anyone else, but I want to take it slow this year. A little shopping here and there. Making cookies with the family. Planning our Christmas Eve dinner.

But I’m not going to allow myself to get overwhelmed with what the world tells me we need to do during the season.

I’m going to pull out a good Advent devotional, make a cup of tea each evening and remember why we celebrate. I want to settle into that place of anticipation that went before the coming of the Messiah and can live in our hearts again if we are willing to slow down.

The title song from Christy Nockels’ Christmas album is the perfect place to start the soundtrack for my season.

 

This is post in the ongoing Wednesday Selah series. After diving back into the work week on Monday and racing through all the tasks that Tuesday brings, let’s take a pause on Wednesday and lift up the name of the only One who matters – Jesus. Find out more about the word, selah, and its use in the Psalms here.

Wednesday Selah: Because of Your Love by Chris Quilala

 

When Chris Quilala released his solo album, Split the Sky, last year, this track became my instant favorite. The first lines of the chorus still pop randomly into my head from time to time:

Because of Your love
Hallelujah, I’m forgiven
The shadow has been lifted
You rescued me

Take a break from a busy Wednesday full of Thanksgiving preparations, and rest in this reminder of God’s immense love for us.

The Bookshelf: The Lost Sermons of C.H. Spurgeon

Unlike perhaps many of the people who will flock to this book, I am a relative novice in the world of famed 19th century preacher Charles Haddon Spurgeon. I know of his revered Morning and Evening devotion book, but little of the prolific writer and speaker behind it.

Yet, even to a such a novice, The Lost Sermons of C.H. Spurgeon there was much to appreciate about the volume.

As beautiful as it is with full color reproductions of Spurgeon’s actual notebooks, it is not conducive to reading through from cover to cover. It is precisely as it states, “outlines and sermons.” Some of these outlines are more complete than others, but there are many that contain incomplete thoughts that would have been filled in during the actual delivery of the message.

Edited by Christian T. George, the volume contains plenty of footnotes to help guide the reader to other materials – such as Spurgeon’s autobiography and collections of his lectures and sermons – that help fill in the blanks left by the outline format. The notes also help to guide readers through the potential thought process of the great preacher as it notes places where words were added to the outline or where words and phrases were stricken.

The introduction to the book is truly an asset in establishing the setting into which Spurgeon was writing and delivering the sermons he outlined. It also contains colorful charts, graphs and even a word cloud to illustrate the content on which Spurgeon concentrated during this season of his ministry.

While beautifully presented, this book is best considered as a reference work for scholars, pastors and students looking for more insight into the world of Spurgeon. Casual readers or newcomers to Spurgeon’s writing may be better served by starting with one of his more accessible volumes.

Disclosure: I was provided with a complimentary copy of The Lost Sermons of C.H. Spurgeon: His Earliest Outlines and Sermons Between 1851 and 1854 in exchange for my unbiased review.