I Heard The Bells On Christmas Day

Today’s Christmas song is especially for those who maybe feeling down this Christmas because life isn’t quite as merry and peaceful as in the carols we sing.  The song is “I Heard The Bells On Christmas Day” as performed by Casting Crowns in 2008.   This song is a new arrangement of a classic Christmas carol, which was based on a poem by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow called “Christmas Bells.” Henry Longfellow wrote this poem on Christmas Day of 1863, during the civil war, after receiving the news that his son, Charles, who had joined the union forces against his father’s wishes, had been seriously wounded.   The poem didn’t become a song until 1872, when organist Charles Baptiste Calkin put music to the words.  Below, you will find both the song lyrics and the original poem.

I like the message in this song and the original poem, which is: No matter how much chaos there is around us, God isn’t dead nor does He sleep, and in Him there is always peace.  True peace, the peace that doesn’t depend on any outside circumstance, is found in Him alone. So whatever circumstance you’re in, have faith that God is with you and cares very much about you. Draw near to Him and trust Him to work in your situation. With God, there is always hope for a brighter day with peace on earth and good will toward all men.

 

 

I Heard The Bells On Christmas Day (As performed by Casting Crown)

I heard the bells on Christmas day
Their old familiar carols play
And mild and sweet their songs repeat
Of peace on earth good will to men
And the bells are ringing
Like a choir they’re singing
In my heart I hear them
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
But the bells are ringing
Like a choir singing
Does anybody hear them?
Peace on earth, good will to men

Then rang 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

Then 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

And the bells they’re ringing
Like a choir they’re singing
And with our hearts we’ll hear them
Peace on earth, good will to men

Do you hear the bells they’re ringing?
The life the angels singing
Open up your heart and hear them
Peace on earth, good will to men

Peace on earth, Peace on earth
Peace on earth, Good will to men

 

Christmas Bells (A Poem by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow)

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!”


O Holy Night

This Christmas eve,  the song “O Holy Night” as performed by Evie in 1977 keeps resonating in my heart,  especially the second verse where she sang:

“Truly He taught us to love one another;
His law is love, and His Gospel is peace.
Chains shall He break, for a slave is a brother;
and in His name all oppression shall cease.”

In God’s eyes, there is no male or female, no master or slave, no rich or poor.  We are all His beloved children, all brothers and sisters in His household.  Some of us don’t know we’re His children.  And some of us who believe that they’re His children cannot see that those who don’t believe are still His children regardless of their unbelief.

Jesus came so that we can know our worth as God’s children.   He came to set us free, so that our self-worth is no longer dependent on our performance, on what the world thinks of us, or on how we rank with others.    Our worth is based on His unconditional love for us alone.  When we realize how very much we’re loved by God, and truly live in the reality of His unconditional love, all other descriptors (rich, poor, master, slave, weak, strong, married, divorced, educated, not educated, etc.) don’t matter anymore.   Because God’s love is freely given and cannot be earned, it breaks through all barriers and makes everyone equal–equally loved and cherished by God.  When, and only when, we have experienced this unconditional love, then we’re able to love others in the same way, overlooking all the descriptors that separate mankind into groups and classes, to see them as brothers and sisters, regardless of their beliefs.

O Holy Night (As performed by Evie Tornquist)

O Holy Night!  The stars are brightly shining;
It is the night of our dear Saviour’s birth.
Long lay the world in sin and error pining;
‘Til He appeared and the soul felt its worth.
A thrill of hope the weary world rejoices;
For yonder breaks a new and glorious morn.
Fall on your knees! Oh, hear the angel voices!
O night divine, O night when Christ was born;
O night divine!  O night, O night divine!

Truly He taught us to love one another;
His law is love, and His Gospel is peace.
Chains shall He break, for a slave is a brother;
And in His name all oppression shall cease.
Sweet hymns of joy in grateful chorus raise we;
Let all within us praise His holy name.
Christ is the Lord; Let ever, ever praise we
His power and glory evermore proclaim!
His power and glory evermore proclaim!


Christmas Eve (Sarajevo 12/24)

Today’s Christmas song is “Christmas Eve (Sarajevo 12/24)” by Trans Siberian Orchestra.  It’s an instrumental arrangement of “God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen” and “Carol of the Bells.”  It was released in TSO’s 1996 album called Christmas Eve and Other Stories. Not many people know the story that inspired this song, and I want to share it here, because I believe this is the heart of the Christmas Spirit.   Christmas is about peace.   It all started when God made peace with men by humbling Himself and becoming one of us, then, as men come to know Him, the peace will grow in each of their hearts and spread from one heart to another, bringing peace on earth and good will toward all men.    There is chaos all around us, and there are men who seek war instead of peace, but in the hearts of those who know peace, peace can still dwell.   And the courage of just one who dares to act toward peace can inspire others to seek the same.   The following is an excerpt from Wikipedia’s article on this music.

“Paul O’Neill explained the story behind Christmas Eve/Sarajevo 12/24 in an interview published on ChristianityToday.com:

… We heard about this cello player born in Sarajevo many years ago who left when he was fairly young to go on to become a well-respected musician, playing with various symphonies throughout Europe. Many decades later, he returned to Sarajevo as an elderly man—at the height of the Bosnian War, only to find his city in complete ruins.

I think what most broke this man’s heart was that the destruction was not done by some outside invader or natural disaster—it was done by his own people.  At that time, Serbs were shelling Sarajevo every night.  Rather than head for the bomb shelters like his family and neighbors, this man went to the town square, climbed onto a pile of rubble that had once been the fountain, took out his cello, and played Mozart and Beethoven as the city was bombed.

He came every night and began playing Christmas carols from that same spot. It was just such a powerful image—a white-haired man silhouetted against the cannon fire, playing timeless melodies to both sides of the conflict amid the rubble and devastation of the city he loves.  Some time later, a reporter traced him down to ask why he did this insanely stupid thing. The old man said that it was his way of proving that despite all evidence to the contrary, the spirit of humanity was still alive in that place.

The song basically wrapped itself around him. We used some of the oldest Christmas melodies we could find, like “God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen” and “Carol of the Bells” (which is from Ukraine, near that region). The orchestra represents one side, the rock band the other, and single cello represents that single individual, that spark of hope.”


Mary’s Boy Child

Today’s Christmas song is one of my all-time favorites called “Mary’s Boy Child” by Evie Tornquist (now Karlsson), from her 1977  “Come On, Ring Those Bells” album.  I love the simplicity of the message:  Man will live forevermore because of Christmas Day.   Jesus came to reconcile all mankind to our Father, so we can live free from sin forever, not just in the future afterlife, but the here-and-now too.   Through Jesus, mankind can find forgiveness, healing, and peace.  Through Jesus we can come to know God’s unconditional love for ourselves and others.  All creations will be set aright again in the end, and there will be a happy ending between God and man, because of Christmas Day (or more precisely, because of the event that we celebrate on Christmas Day–Jesus’ birth).

Mary’s Boy Child (As performed by Evie Tornquist)

Long time ago in Bethlehem,
So the Holy Bible say;
Mary’s boy child, Jesus Christ
Was born on Christmas day.

Hark, now hear the angels sing,
New King is born today,
And man will live forevermore,
Because of Christmas day.

While shepherds watched their flock by night,
They saw a bright new shining star,
And heard a choir from heaven sing,
The music came from afar.

Hark, now hear the angels sing,
New King is born today,
And man will live forevermore,
Because of Christmas day.

[Instrumental Break]

Now, Joseph and his wife, Mary,
Came to Bethlehem that night;
They found no place to bear her child;
Not a single room was in sight.

By and by, they found a little nook
In a stable all forlorn;
And in a manger cold and dark,
Mary’s little boy child was born.

Trumpets sound and angels sing,
Listen to what they say;
That Man will live forevermore,
Because of Christmas Day!
Because of Christmas Day!


Stuck In The Smoke Hole Of Our Tipi

Today’s Christmas song is “Stuck In The Smoke Hole Of Our Tipi,” an original song by Shoshonee Elder Oldhands (flamingwarbonnet on Youtube). I heard it for the first time yesterday, when a friend emailed the link for the Youtube video to me. It gave me a good chuckle. I wasn’t feeling too well yesterday, so perhaps that set me up for this somewhat morbid sense of humor. But this song got me to think how we take it for granted that everyone around the world knows about Santa Claus and the Christmas tradition associated with him. To someone who doesn’t know about Christmas or Santa Claus, he must look pretty silly in that red suit, bellowing “Ho, Ho, Ho” and lugging around a big sack of toys. This song explores the possibility of what could happen if Santa encounters an Indian tribe that doesn’t know him or the Christmas tradition.

Stuck In The Smoke Hole Of Our Tipi
Written and performed by Oldhands

There’s a funny fat man in a silly red suit
Stuck in the smoke hole of our tipi
There’s a funny fat man in a silly red suit
Stuck in the smoke hole of our tipi
Ho, Ho, Ho, he thinks he’s talking Indian
No, No, No, ain’t no way we’ll let him in
Want no funny fat man in a silly red suit
Stuck in the smoke hole of our tipi

Grandma’s skinning his deer, and Grandpa’s cooking up the meat
From the funny fat man in a silly red suit
Stuck in the smoke hole of our tipi
Ho, Ho, Ho, he thinks he’s talking Indian
No, No, No, ain’t no way we’ll let him in
Want no funny fat man in a silly red suit
Stuck in the smoke hole of our tipi

Auntie’s taking his boots, and Uncle’s stripping down the sleigh
Of the funny fat man in a silly red suit
Stuck in the smoke hole of our tipi
Ho, Ho, Ho, he thinks he’s talking Indian
No, No, No, ain’t no way we’ll let him in
Want no funny fat man in a silly red suit
Stuck in the smoke hole of our tipi

Ching, ching, ching, sound of money coming in
From the pawning of the toys
From the funny fat man in a silly red suit
Stuck in the smoke hole of our tipi
Ho, Ho, Ho, he thinks he’s talking Indian
No, No, No, ain’t no way we’ll let him in
Want no funny fat man in a silly red suit
Stuck in the smoke hole of our tipi

Ho, Ho, Ho, he thinks he’s talking Indian
No, No, No, ain’t no way we’ll let him in
Want no funny fat man in a silly red suit
Stuck in the smoke hole of our tipi


All I Want For Christmas Is My Two Front Teeth

Today’s Christmas song is “All I Want For Christmas Is My Two Front Teeth” by Spike Jones (1948).  The song was written by Donald Yetter Gardner in 1944, after asking his second-grade class what they wanted for Christmas and noticing that almost all of them were missing at least one front tooth and talking in a lisp.  He wrote the song in 30 minutes.  In a 1995 interview, he said he was amazed how this silly little song became so popular.

This Christmas, I may end up with a lisp myself.   I’m not losing my two front teeth, but, on December 20th (just in time for Christmas), I will be getting braces for the first time in my life to fix a bad overbite that, if not corrected, will end up grinding all my teeth away, and then I’ll be needing more than just my two front teeth.  It’s a 3 –4-year-long process, involving braces, plates, oral surgery, jaw reconstruction, and more braces.   One advantage I have going through this process as an adult who’s seen her own children grown from infancy to adulthood is that I know how quickly 3 or 4 years can fly by, and I have also learned to see beyond the pain and inconvenience of today to the result awaiting me at the end of this whole process.  And I’m hoping that the side benefit of not being able to eat everything over the holidays is that I won’t gain weight, and maybe lose a few pounds instead.  Wouldn’t that be nice!?

Since I’ll more than likely have to learn to talk all over again with all the dental corrective apparatus in my mouth, I figure before I lose the ability to say it properly, I should wish you all  an early Merry Christmas!

All I Want For Christmas Is My Two Front Teeth
–As performed by Spike Jones in 1948.

Spoken intro:
’twas the night before christmas and all through the house;
Not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse.
Suddenly I heard a strange noise down below;
So, in my flannel pajamas i went tippy-toe.
I could see old saint nick from the spot where I stood;
So I slid down the banister just as fast as i could.

Sung:
All I want for Christmas is my two front teeth;
My two front teeth, see, my two front teeth ?
Gee, if I could only have my two front teeth,
Then I could wish you Merry Christmas.

It seems so long since I could say
“Sister Suzy sitting on a thistle.”
Every time I try to speak,
Huh, all I do is whistle.

All I want for Christmas is my two front teeth;
My two front teeth, see my two front teeth ?
Gee, if I could only have my two front teeth,
Then i could wish you Merry Christmas.

[Instrumental]

Spoken:
Good old Santa Claus and all his reindeer;
Huh, they used to bring me lots of toys and candy;
Gee, but, but now when I go out and call “Dancer, Prancer, Donnner and Blitzen”
None of ’em can understand me!

All I want for Christmas is my two front teeth;
My two front teeth, see my two front teeth?
All I want for christmas is my two front teeth
So I can wish you Merry Christmas
Christmas, Christmas
Aww, for goodness sakes!
Happy New Year!!!


Winter Wonderland

This morning, as I looked out the window at the fresh fallen snow, the song “Winter Wonderland” came to mind. The song was written in 1934, with music by Felix Bernard and lyrics by Richard B. Smith, and has been recorded by many artists over the years. The version that I thought of this morning was by Amy Grant in 1992.

I’m originally from Bangkok, Thailand, where it never snows, and immigrated to Los Angeles, California, where you have to drive for hours to the mountains to touch snow. So, I’ve never really experienced a snowy Winter until my husband and I moved to Seattle, WA, area with our firstborn child in 1987.   That was just a training camp for our move later to Carmel, Indiana, in 2003 (after moving back from Seattle to sunny California in 1989 and remaining there  for 14 years).    This being our 7th Winter in Indiana, being bone-chilling cold, and navigating through ice and snow to do everyday errands, the charm of Winter Wonderland has diminished quite a bit with me .   But his song is from the point of view of a couple in love, and when you’re twitterpated, you can be anywhere and it’s a wonderland.   When I think of it that way, being in love with my husband, and having my family with me in this snowy place, Winter can be a Wonderland after all.