Bells of Good Cheer
Bel * cher
("Good * Cheer")
BELLS OF GOOD CHEER
The song "I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day," by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, written during the Civil War, tells of the poets despair at the thought that "hate is strong and mocks the song of peace on earth, good will to men," and then the writers glad reminder to himself that despite all the evil in the world, "God is not dead, nor doth He sleep" and "the wrong shall fail, the right prevail." His message is just as pertinent to us today who fight a culture war in a New Age of postmodernism.
In this season of good cheer, here are some thoughts I have on the subjects of the good cheer brought into the world by Jesus birth, and the New Years resolution we can make to Him and ourselves to let truth reign in our lives: Truth, like snow, startles us into awareness of its honest beauty: crisp in a cold world filled with gray shadows.
"Be of Good Cheer"
Its tough to maintain good cheer when all you receive in return for doing good is punishment and abuse. But thats when the tough prove they are tough: By going on, like one baby did when He grew up to become a man. He was born in poverty, and He grew up in poverty. His own parents didnt quite understand Him, and throughout His life, His living conditions were rough. Many people criticized Him severely, and He really had to stand His ground, stand firm for what He believed in, what He knew to be right. But He was able to do that because He knew He was right: The principles He espoused were not His own, and they were right because they were Gods. Thus He made His stand--this Son of God. His name was Jesus.
Yet while He lived on earth, He laughed. He was clear-sighted enough to know what was victory. He came to give us good cheer, joy to the fullest, in the midst of adversity. While youre in the world, you will have trouble, He told us. Then He went on to say, "Be of good cheer; I have overcome the world" (John 16:33, King James Version).
When all of lifes events have passed away, and the time comes for us to face our longest future, we have guaranteed knowledge that only good things lie ahead for those who have lived according to His values. Hes offering us a life that is better than the various lifestyles the world has to offer--better in the sense that His lifestyle offers self-respect through truth, for those who like truth. He often said, "Anyone who has ears to listen, let him listen." Those who want to hear and see truth in living action, listen to and look at Him: a baby born at Bethlehem, now a king reigning in Heaven.
The Bells of Heaven Rang
The bells of heaven rang the night the Conqueror was born. His conquest of Satan was a victory more difficult and subtle than merely marching an army out to defeat another: For He was releasing prisoners from the enemys stronghold not by storming the enemys camp by force of arms. No guns, no swords, no shields to protect Gods Son from the cruelty of the world: Instead, He led an army, an invasion force of people who lived pure lives and spoke pure words. He invaded the enemys camp through the force of His own personality. Himself was all He needed: for a perfect life is a greater weapon against evil than all the bombs and nuclear missiles will ever be. His victory is: When He ascended to Heaven, He took the captives He had freed and assembled them in His train (His entourage of soldiers). He calls us to attain true courage: To live the life of a member of His group of crimefighters who fight sin. Every person who returns to Him and fights on His side is one more prisoner He rescues from the enemys camp. Thats the victory that God sees when He views history from Heavens perspective, like a map spread out with all events laid open to a single view. The angels rejoice to see the gradual gathering, throughout time, of Gods holy band.
The angels must have sung in loud accompaniment to the tune of heavens bells, that holy precious night when God came down to earth as a human baby. The whole world, once it understood the news, must have rejoiced with the shepherds who heard the angels glad tidings: For now there was an answer to despair, a hand up out of whatever sinkhole people can get themselves into. "There is no hope," people may say, but thats not true: There is Hope, and His name is Jesus. He came to be our Victor--our Champion to stand behind us so we can stand firm against a morass of gray. The worlds heavy mud sticks to our feet, dragging us down like quicksand, its uncertainty the color of clay, and its consistency, just as soft. Remember, Jesus told us not to build a house on sand. If were not careful, we can get lost in a fog of ever-shifting values, like shadows flitting in front of our view. But the fog dissipates and clears away when we simply stick to the truth. Finding solid ground: that is our challenge in life--what most people never do (see Matthew 7:14). Thats why one night was so important long ago: The night that brought in light to cut through the fog of our uncertainty. On that night, Jesus was born.
Liberty bells were what Christs birth rang. His whole life rang liberty bells, setting captives free from the tyranny of Satan. His words to us ring like bells of good cheer--sweet music to the ear.
Good cheer is finding meaning in even the smallest action we do: A constant joy that arises from self-fulfillment through dedication to truth. Then are we joyful in the midst of adversity: not constant tranquility, but sometimes, even a determined enjoyment of standing up against wrong, even at the cost of having wrong done to us. Sometimes, doing the right thing may not seem fun at first, when doing good comes at a high personal price. Yet, to enjoy seeing justice done, no matter what the cost; to fight the good fight to the fullest extent of our capacity, if need be: That commitment brings good cheer in the form of knowledge in the heart that we know what we stand for, and we know Whose we are. We are His, if we live in His truth: That is reason to rejoice.
Bells ring to strike out our moment in time whenever we hear church bells chime the hour. This is our day of decision. We leave footprints wherever we tread, in everything we do and say during this journey on earth we call our life. If we can give meaning to others, and encourage some, too, then we will spread good cheer to at least some people in the world, those we meet along the way. For those looking for meaning, who dont want their existence to be a waste, Jesus offers the only meaning that will ever stand firm when all objects are shifting around us. Thats when we welcome Gods cleansing snow of righteousness: blankets He pulls over us, to wrap us up in a cover of white and to keep us amid the worlds cold. His warmth is good cheer, to make us whole, as His joy warms our hearts.
New Years Resolution
When we ring in the new year, lets think about making this years values better than those of the last. Collectively, our standards and values are what determines the course of history, as well as our own lifes path. Other peoples thoughts and actions are influenced by our own, and our own deeds depend on the values we act upon.
So, values do matter: they are based on our beliefs--either on Gods Holy Book or on mans philosophy. What we believe about the creation around us, and about humanity, shapes what we say and do. Even the definitions of "bad" and "good" depend upon what standard we hold to--what code of conduct we use--or whether we have none. So, our actions depend upon whether we truly believe in God enough to base our whole lives on His principles. When we are tired of the worlds repetitive song, we can still base our lives on Gods morals--that song of never-ending honesty and of the truth that is both old and new. Gods Word is the standard that determines right and wrong. The question is: Do we want to adopt Gods standard as our own?
In the new year, let us renew our love for each other. When all else in life has been killed by the worlds frost, the only real thing left is the sunlight of Gods truth and love. And though the winter of troubles seems long, we will see the Sun of Righteousness when that day we are waiting for so long, will come (Malachi 4:2). And in this quest, we are not alone: Others have gone before us--the Christian heroes whom we will know someday, when we all see Glory. Until then, we, like them, walk across the earths pitfalls--the same thin ice that Jesus walked--trying to do things as He would do them, and thus remaining in the love of Christ. Then will we show "good will to men," and peace.
The bells of good cheer that first rang at Christs birth were the glad tidings that God still brings to ring in our lives. So let our bells ring! Let our light shine, like a city on a hill that everyone can see. Let the music of our lives fill the air--sweet tones that people around us can hear--as they search for good cheer.
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