After all the anticipation and preparations, Christmas is over. With few exceptions, the gifts we worked so hard to choose have been opened, the food we spent so much time preparing has been eaten, and the wishes we sent have been received. Children are enjoying new toys—and some adults are, too. Our ears are about ready to stop hearing the Christmas music we looked forward to a few weeks ago, and our eyes are almost ready for us to dismantle the decorations we have been enjoying.
Many of us feel blessed beyond measure. We have cherished times with family and friends and have celebrated a cornerstone of our faith, the birth of our Savior.
Others among us have had a different experience with the season. In the midst of all the festivities, they have struggled with illness, grief, loneliness, and melancholy. For them the end of the season comes with relief.
And it can been even worse. Tragedy is no respecter of seasons. Last night a mother was murdered, today the father arrested, and last I heard the ten-year-old son could not be found. Is he hiding somewhere in terror? And tomorrow’s headlines will tell of the angry, vengeful man who went to the large family Christmas party, shot several people, set the place on fire, and later killed himself.
What do we do with Christmas in the midst of a world like that?
During our country’s tragic Civil, War Henry Longfellow wrote the words to the carol, “I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day.” He begins with words about bells, “wild and sweet,” repeating words of “peace on earth, goodwill to men.” Then he looked around him and wrote the third verse that has long haunted me.
And in despair I bowed by head:
“There is no peace of earth,” I said,
For hate is strong and mocks the song
Of peace on earth, goodwill to men.”
I’m grateful that Longfellow didn’t stop with that verse but went on to write two more, including this third one:
Then pealed the bells more loud and deep:
“God is not dead nor doeth He sleep;
The wrong shall fail, the right prevail,
With peace on earth, goodwill to men.”
I’m grateful for that reminder. Yes, Christmas is over, and I don’t expect right to win out over wrong any time soon. But I cling to the fact that God is not dead nor doth He sleep.” I’ll take that assurance to bed with me tonight, and I’ll take it with me into the new year that starts in seven days. Without it, saying good-by to Christmas would be an empty exercise. With that assurance, I can file this Christmas away with all the others in my memory bank and look forward to whatever God has for me before another one rolls around.