Can Christmas Carols Save Our Hope For Christmas?

The bells will be ringing, but will this year be a Christmas we all have the blues? Two nights ago my throat started to feel a little sore. Any other year I am not sure I would even register this annoying sensation, but not with Covid still decimating December. My hope of a happy Christmas seemed to be crashing all around me. I leaned over to April and told her my fears of having to spend Christmas alone, quarantined from my family. Now, as I write this, I am fine, but the fear of missing out on family time was real. I know missing family time is the reality that many people are facing. Families are stuck at home, separated from loved ones. Hope seems to be in short supply.

A quarantine Christmas comes at the end of a not so tender year. We’ve been torn apart Chaos and closed cafes have lead to hate. Hate is strong and it is telling us to give in to despair. Yet, Christmas time is coming! This advent season many churches lit their hope candles, but I am sure to many the candle’s flame seems to be flickering out. However, God is stronger than hate and he is still working.

I know that God is stronger than hate because of Christmas music. You know, jingle bells, deck them halls, and all that stuff. There is just so much joy and hope in the songs we listen to once a year. This fact hit me about ten years ago when I started enjoying Christmas music. I think it was the Blue Grass Christmas station on pandora (I can’t remember for sure, but I wrote about it here and I even included a list of my favorite songs), it just makes me dance, and John Gorka’s “I Heard The Bells On Christmas Day,” which is the Christmas Carol of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s poem Christmas Bells.

In 1861 Henry Wadsworth Longfellow lost his wife to a tragic fire. Then his son died while fighting for the Union in the Civil War. He sunk in despair and was stung when he heard the bells on Christmas Day. I am sure he wanted God to tell him why he had lost his wife and son and why our nation was at war. So many people were dying and I am sure his world felt out of control, maybe a little like how our world feels. Yet, he did not end in despair.

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.”

If he can still find hope when all seems lost, so can we. In Longfellow’s isolation and pain, God showed up. This poem is so relevant now. Our world is a mess. Hate is strong, but it cannot outshine God’s love for us. He is working in this mess and He will redeem it. The wrong shall fail, the right prevail because the best is yet to come. Our God turns gravestones into gardens.

God has promised to come and heal the brokenhearted and I know he will. God is a promise keeper and no matter my health, my hope will be in Him. I hope that as we wait for Christmas during the last week of advent, you feel God’s love and you know that the wrong shall fail, the right prevail, and God will bring peace on earth, good-will to men. The bells will be ringing the sound of hope again!

A New Hope

Little Doomsday Preppers

Hope is a funny thing, it turns up when least expected and yet most needed.

I’ve been in and out of special education facilities over the last three weeks, for my class on the Exceptional Child in the Regular Classroom, and I was surprised by hope.

I’m learning about different ways to teach all my students, especially those kids who struggle with various types of disabilities.

I had a powerful learning experience at The Joshua School, which was founded by several Denver Public School teachers to help educate kids with autism.  Visiting the school was emotionally draining, but also uplifting at the same time.

Typically I feel very comfortable in a classroom, but when I toured the school I felt pushed, uncomfortable.  At one point a young boy started screaming and I didn’t know what to do.  The incredible staff didn’t lose a beat, they helped him, as they do all of their students, and soon everyone was back to learning.  Most of the kids were learning one on one with a teacher, using iPads and other cool gadgets.  It’s the goal of the school to find out what motivates each student, so that all of the kids, with their varying difficulties due to autism, are able to learn.

One of the school’s main goals is to help the kids learn how to socialize.  It is a struggle for most of the families to take their kids out to movies or dinner, but The Joshua School believes that learning is almost useless if the kid cannot enjoy life with his or her parents.  The kids struggled with the simplest of tasks, but they also all were so human, so like me, with wants and needs.

Hope is when you see someone hurting and you stop at nothing to help.

Havern, a private school for kids with learning disabilities, and the next school I visited, made me realize how broken we all are.  None of the kids looked different from the students I taught in Guatemala, as they looked like normal kids, but the students at Havern find it difficult to verbalize their needs.  They need extra help learning how to read and write due to learning disabilities, but because of this school many are able to reenter regular schools by the start of high school.

This got me thinking (a miracle, I know).  We are all broken, aren’t we?  We all have our struggles, just like the kids at Havern or The Joshua School, some of us might not have the best social skills or know know how to spell (just read most of my past blogs).  Yes I know, not everyone has difficulty learning, or needs a special school, but we’ve all had our problems in life.  We’re all broken or have been broken in some way or another.

Hope helps you see the spectacular in the normal, the beauty in the broken.

On Tuesday January 22 I drove to the Children’s Hospital to hear about brokenness.  The Kempe Children Center used to house a day care for physically, emotionally, and sexually abused children.  The stories the presenters told were extremely difficult to listen to.  The two speakers told stories of how these kids had been broken.

At the end of my time at the Kempe Children Center I was asked to do more than listen.  I was asked to give my students hope.

Hope allows someone who has been broken to stop being helpless and realize he or she can survive, but more than that, thrive.

Giving hope to my students wasn’t a new idea, but it seemed strange to come in such an unexpected place.  The people who work at the Kempe Children Center hear so many horrible stories, I would assume they would feel a little hopeless, but they told me that they have to live with hope or they could not go to work each day.  They deal with such heavy burdens, but they also have the hope that they can help that broken child learn to live again and maybe even thrive.

Where can hope be found?

I find my hope for each day in Christ.  This is a cruel world we live in.  We seem to love to hurt each other.  We’re born with imperfections, in need of someone to come along side us and show us how to live and love.  We are a failed people who need fixed.  Yet, when we were our most broken, Christ loved us.  Like the teachers I observed at the schools I visited, He will go to great lengths to meet our needs.  Even death.  That is because He sees the humanity in us all, and loves us still.

Why I’m Still Celebrating Christmas

Christmas Morning

I know that it is January 9th and that my parents have taken down all of the Christmas decorations in the house.  They’ve piled up all the boxes in the basement and now the house looks drab, well as ordinary as a house looks after the most festive season.  But I am still celebrating Christmas.

Deliciousness

Christmas day is a special day in my house.  We wake up early, open our gifts, eat a spectacular breakfast that the woman of the house prepare and then enjoy each other’s presence.   Christmas in my house is a day for true joy and I love it so much that Christmas is no longer going to be a one day celebration in my life.

It’s not even just a 12 day celebration.  Did you know that traditionally the twelve days of Christmas actually mean something more than just whatever that silly song suggests?

All I know is we passed through each day of the twelve days of Christmas.  We’ve already celebrated day 6 of Christmas, where we received six geese a laying, which means we are to remember to give thanks to God because he is the creator and caretaker of our world.

I know that the Epiphany already happened.  The magi have already given their gifts to baby Jesus, and that even the most Orthodox Christians are already putting Christmas behind them.

But I am not done celebrating!

No, this does not mean that I am still listing to Christmas music.  I am not one of those people (Although my sister and her oldest kid are both as Christmas Crazy as it gets)!

Joy of Christmas

I’m still celebrating Christmas because it’s the only way I can make sense of the world.

2012 was a hard year for many people.  I have many friends who spent the year struggling with health issues.  Two of my friends had a year from hell.  They moved to Denver in early 2012 only to find out that their new apartment was infested with bedbugs.  Then the wife found that that she was allergic to the bug spray, so they had to move out, breaking their lease.  Their year got worse, and yet they weren’t alone.

Here in Denver, on July 20th, a madman entered a screening of “The Dark Knight Rises” and killed 12 people.  That day, going to the movies lost their innocence.  Later that year things would get worse.  I remember going to bed on December 13th praying that God would keep all the people safe who were at the premier for the Hobbit, only to wake up to find out that another mad man had forced his way into a school in Newtown, Connecticut, killing innocent little kids and heroic teachers.

I’m still celebrating Christmas because Christ gives me hope.  I cannot make sense of why these tragic events took place this last year.  I do not know why my friends had such a hard year.  I do not know why people would want to kill, especially innocent little first graders.  All I know is that I can set out to be different.  To love the people around me and treat everyone with respect.

Not everyone tries to treat people with love and respect.  There seems to be plenty of hate in our world.  We might never know why those two tragedies occurred, but I think what may have been wrong with the killers is a microcosm of what is wrong with the world.  It’s a loss of love and hope.  Instead of loving our neighbors, we’ve decided to live selfishly.

We have become a me first society and so when people need help, they are more often than not, pushed away, which makes for a sad and lonely world.  I do not know why my friends had a year from hell, but I do know they experienced Christ’s love and provision throughout all of their struggles.  They weren’t alone.

See, I’m still celebrating Christmas because I have decided to live differently.  I don’t want my friends to feel alone.  I’m going to live in hope and I’m going to try to share that hope with my friends.

I can have hope because God is my provider.  He gave me, and the rest of this broken world, Jesus.  So even when everything seems to be crumbling around me, I can have hope because Jesus “heals the brokenhearted and bandages their wounds.  He counts the stars and calls them all by name.  How great is our Lord!  His power is absolute!  His understanding is beyond comprehension.”

Christmas is not over because Christ is working in our lives.  So even when things get rough this year, remember that God is our provider and that Jesus has come to heal your broken heart.

Today the Christmas tree has been tossed out into the back yard, waiting to be mulched, the boxes of Christmas decorations are piled up in the basement, but those seasonal reminders of Christs grace and God’s provision, do not have to fade away.

What if we all lived a little differently and celebrated Christ year round?  Would we then start to see all that Christ is doing in our lives.  Would we see Christ’s love during the joyful times as well as the sorrowful times?

Let’s find out together!

Join me this year in living differently, living completely engaged in all that God has for us.  Living Spiritually.

Gravestones and God