I took a small, Christmas bell ornament off the rack. My husband, two youngest daughters and I were at Harrods, a famous and expensive department store, in London, England. It was August, too early for Christmas, but the colourful decoration was actually affordable and I wanted a souvenir to take home. Besides, when Christmas arrived, we would enjoy the cheerful ornament.
Bells have been ringing for hundreds of years and for a variety of reasons. Sometimes, as in John Donne’s famous lines, “…send not to know/ For whom the bell tolls,/ It tolls for thee” (“No Man is an Island”), bells signify death. At other times, bells are rung for joyful occasions, such as weddings or coronations. In churches, bells are used as a call to worship or as part of a mass. On July 27th, bells were heard all over the United Kingdom to announce the beginning of the 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games. Big Ben – the name of the bell, rather than the clock- is admired by millions of tourists.
At Christmas, bells represent joy. Luke 2:13-14 describes the Bethlehem scene: “Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praisingGod and saying, ‘Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom his favour rests’” (NIV). The angels announced the coming of the Christ Child with great rejoicing. Even though bells are not specifically mentioned, it isn’t hard to imagine an angelic chorus ringing bells from on high!
This December, I have been asked to be the bell ringer for our church play, and somehow this seems appropriate. 2012 has been a “bell ringing” year for our family. We have celebrated our oldest daughter’s wedding, a university convocation, our youngest daughter’s Grade 12 graduation and 18th birthday, several children entering college and a dream trip to Iceland and the UK. These have all been milestone events and reasons for great happiness.
We have also experienced more subtle forms of joy: colourful flowers blooming on sunny mornings, stacks of good books on our desks and shelves, walks on sandy beaches, acquiring a car after years of doing without, getting much needed dental work completed and enjoying wonderful conversations with the incredibly awesome people in our world. Happiness is very often a choice and gratitude and recognition of our blessings plays a large part in how we view our lives.
Sometimes, though, we have to purposely and steadfastly ring our bells, through times of darkness. This year, the tragic death of a friend, the loss of a job I have loved and the ongoing illness of my niece have brought with them a sense of grief and loss. The birth of Jesus reminds us that light and joy are always present, even during those times when our circumstances don’t reflect them.
The Christmas season has arrived. The bell ornament I purchased in August from Harrods is hung in a place all its own. It is a symbol that the joy of God is ever present. Zephaniah 3:17 says, “The Lord your God is with you, he is mighty to save. He will take great delight, he will quiet you with his love, he will rejoice over you with singing.” As 2012 draws to a close, ring your bells and anticipate with joy the blessings God has in store for your future!
Fran by the Sea