We got our Christmas tree yesterday, and got it up in the house this morning.
Brian is preaching on peace tomorrow morning. “The fruit of the spirit is… peace.”
This fall has been one with many changes, and at times, repeated times, it has not felt peaceful, at least for me and at times for Brian. Chase has felt it too, I expect. Figuring out a new normal is tough. Finding the different schedules of the family to be rather fragmented has created a level of frenetic and disconnected that has been challenging both practically and emotionally. We miss being together, and the easy communication and logistics that we enjoyed among ourselves even as we juggled all our different balls. We don’t anymore get the full breath of just being together and figuring it all out in the same space.
Most recently, in contrast to most of my fall, I have found myself thankfully aware of a growing sense of peace in the midst of it all. Simultaneously, however, I think Brian’s sense of peace underwent a decrease and I was reminded yesterday, by the sweet grace of the Holy Spirit I am sure, that I need to pray more for Brian, and for the boys, and our family. Specifically and continuously. A verse from my window-sill, Isaiah 26:3-4, came to mind, and I did my best to pray it all day. “You will keep in perfect peace him whose mind is stayed on you, because he trusts in you. Trust in the Lord forever, for the Lord God is an everlasting rock.”
Then this morning, after waking up early but slowly, together, after a good night’s sleep, Brian told me about Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s poem “Christmas Bells” which he had discovered this week as he studied. I broke out my 1886 Longfellow book (which I had found in an Edinburgh book store with my Grandma Kay in 1990) and found it there. Brian explained that Longfellow wrote it in 1863 after two devastating events.
Just two years earlier, in 1861, his wife had died of burns when her dress caught on fire and despite all his efforts, including throwing himself on the flames, he couldn’t get it out fast enough. Then, in March of 1863 his eldest son had left home without warn
ing to join the Union Army. In early December of that year, Longfellow received word that his son had been seriously wounded, but in the next few days, was
given a more optimistic report that he would likely (and did) survive without paralysis. On Christmas Day 1863, he wrote the poem that since has become a favorite carol. As I read it this morning from that old book, I found myself teary in appreciation for what Longfellow expressed about the peace God has given us in Christ. He beautifully portrays the easy agreement we that we sometimes are able to give, then expresses the dark and doubt-filled days of grief and adversity, and finally pronounces the peace of God as a fact rather than an emotion, as the everlasting rock that remains, that does not sleep, nor change, nor fail, regardless of our surroundings and circumstances.
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 roll’d 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 thunder’d in the South,/ And with the sound/ The carols drown’d/ Of peace on earth, good-will to men!
It was as if an earthquake rent/ The hearthstone of a continent/ And made forlorn/ The households born/ Of peace on earth, good-will to men!
And in despair I bow’d 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 peal’d 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!”
I am thankful that in his grace he is helping me learn that his peace, like his love and grace, his hope and joy, are everlasting, true, and ever present, available, no matter what is swirling around in our changing circumstances.