Thursday, December 24, 2015

The Joy of Christmas

Occasionally during the holidays, one hears the song, "I Heard The Bells On Christmas Day".  It's a great, great song.  Perhaps we should sing it more often, especially in these troubled times.

It actually has a sad beginning.  During the Civil War, the poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow had a son, Charles who joined the Union Army, much to his father's dismay.  Later, the elder Longfellow was notified that his son had been severely wounded in November 1963.  This dreadful news,  coupled with the recent loss of his wife in an accidental fire, prompted Longfellow to write the poem, "Christmas Bells" which would later become the carol, "I Heard The Bells On Christmas Day."  Ponder the richness of these lyrics:

"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."

In the midst of human sorrow, Longfellow was comforted by the bells of Christmas.  God is not dead.  Righteousness will prevail; evil will be obliterated.

How we need the sounds and joys of Christmas in life  In sadness, in despair, in the midst of darkness, God has provided a light which provides peace on earth and good will towards men.

Merry Christmas to all!

Thursday, December 10, 2015

What Really Matters

The other day I was working on a "Football Saturday".  You know what this means?  This is a day when there are college football games in abundance at a variety of settings. 

As I was working, one of the patients on our floor had his TV turned on to a conference championship game (I'm not sure which teams were playing).  Anyway, I could hear his TV out at the nurses' station.  I observed some things from his TV situation.  First of all, there was an overall excitement with the crowd, sometimes waxing, sometimes waning, in response to the action.  In addition, the announcers were broadcasting the game with fervor using strong, forceful words.  One would think by the enthusiasm of the crowd and the seriousness of the announcers that this was a life versus death struggle, that all of mankind depended on the outcome of this conquest.

Yet, in the broad scheme of things, this game really didn't matter. Sure, it is fun to watch (especially when your favorite team is the victor), but it is only a game.  Players may get trophies, fans may be delirious for a season, but again, the game doesn't really matter in the long run.

A great but simple question:  What is really important in life?

There is a passage from Luke 10:38-42 which states:

"Now as they were traveling along, He entered a village; and a woman named Martha welcomed Him into her home. She had a sister called Mary, who was seated at the Lord’s feet, listening to His word.  But Martha was distracted with all her preparations; and she came up to Him and said, “Lord, do You not care that my sister has left me to do all the serving alone? Then tell her to help me.” But the Lord answered and said to her, Martha, Martha, you are worried and bothered about so many things; but only one thing is necessary, for Mary has chosen the good part, which shall not be taken away from her.”

Apparently Martha was working on food preparation and other issues in taking care of her special guest, Jesus.  However, Martha's sister, Mary, was captivated by the words of Jesus and wouldn't lift a finger to help.  A frustrated Martha wanted Jesus to intervene.  However, Jesus said that Mary had actually chosen the "good part" of His visit, that is, listening to His teaching.   In other words, focusing on the word of the Lord was better than laboring in the kitchen.  

So what really matters?  Overcoming cancer is nice, having a good job is helpful, raising a good family is wonderful, etc.  But when all is said and done, the most important part of life is listening (and applying) the words of Jesus.