The Story Behind Makes the Song So Good

It’s no secret that I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day, a poem written during the Civil War by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, is my favorite Christmas carol.

The history and background of the poem/song can be found all over the internet, but there is a nice description here.

In light of current events and the climate in the US, and around the world today, the words to this poem still resonate strongly.


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.

I 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.

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.”

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!


“God is not dead, nor doth he sleep; The wrong shall fail, the right prevail,…”

True words written by a man who knew true sorrow.Henry_Wadsworth_Longfellow,_photographed_by_Julia_Margaret_Cameron_in_1868

I offer you words of HOPE this Christmas.

God is not dead.

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The Red Journal

photo 1

Since 1999 my older brother has kept a Christmas journal that contains reflections on Christmas written by members of the family. Each Christmas one family member writes in the journal and then does a reading at the annual party.

journal

I recognize each person’s handwriting. What a special tradition.

2014 was my year. 


I wrap my children’s Christmas gifts early and put them out a couple weeks before Christmas day. If the gifts are out, you may wonder, how do I keep my children from squeezing and shaking and peeking at their packages in the days and weeks before Christmas? Wouldn’t the temptation to take a peak be just a little too strong? And what about the beautiful packaging – doesn’t it get bent and torn and worn away?

Yes and yes.

In fact, in our house there is a lot of movement of the gifts (by the children) – from upstairs in my bedroom, to down under the tree, to back up in the bedroom again. As you can imagine, there are repairs on the paper from holes and rips that, “accidentally” appeared there.photo 1 (3)

None of this bothers me. You see, I know that the majority of the pleasure derived from the gifts is experienced in the anticipation of opening them and seeing what is inside. Once opened, gifts often lose their luster and it doesn’t take long on Christmas day or the days following for the open gifts to be pushed aside and forgotten. Sweet treats from the stocking are found under the couch partially eaten and collecting dust, little makeup boxes lay empty and discarded while the eyeshadow they once contained is caked on my children’s faces or, occasionally, smeared into the sofa. The device they’ve wanted all year is discarded in preference of mom’s iPhone – as usual.

That’s OK too. As much as gifts and even lovely traditions (like this journal) are important and we hope they last for generations to come, gifts and traditions don’t make Christmas – Christmas. And Christmas will certainly not cease to be Christmas if all the gifts and traditions and trappings were taken away. The Whos taught us that.

Every Who down in Who-ville, the tall and the small,

Was singing! Without any presents at all!
He HADN’T stopped Christmas from coming! IT CAME!
Somehow or other, it came just the same!
And the Grinch, with his Grinch-feet ice-cold in the snow, stood puzzling and puzzling:

Grinch: How could it be so?
It came without ribbons! It came without tags!
It came without packages, boxes, or bags!

Narrator: And he puzzled and puzzled, till his puzzler was sore.
Then the Grinch thought of something he hadn’t before!
“Maybe Christmas,” he thought, “doesn’t come from a store.
Maybe Christmas… perhaps… means a little bit more.”

-Dr. Seuss, How the Grinch Stole Christmas

So, what does Christmas mean?

I think most of us would agree that Christmas is the Celebration of the birth of a Savior. Everyone here tonight knows that. We come together at this time of year to celebrate the BIRTH of a Savior. Emphasis on the word, Birth.

Now, I am not against Jesus’ birthday, Christmas traditions or gift giving; the Bible encourages traditions and even the wise men gave gifts, but if that is where our Christmas celebration ends, our disappointment is guaranteed. We are left with emptiness, much like the feeling we experience after the gifts are finally opened and we wake up on the morning of the 26th to a house full of discarded wrappings and empty boxes. It’s not enough, it’s never enough – all the amazing and beautiful, best gifts in the world or fun Christmas events and parties can never truly satisfy the longing inside of us. In fact, once Christmas is finally all over, we are often left feeling relieved.

Now let me try to say this again, Christmas is the celebration of the birth of a SAVIOR, emphasis on the word, Savior. “But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord.” Luke 2:10-11

The gifts will never satisfy because our hearts are longing for something much greater and more lasting – our forever home – heaven, Eternity with God Himself. A place and a time where the celebration will not be focused on the Savior’s birth but a place and a time where the celebration is focused simply, on the Savior.

Think of the generations of worshipers from the very first; those of old who looked forward with anticipation for a Savior who would one day come, to Mary, Joseph, the shepherds and the wise men, the disciples, the apostles, the early church, the very first believers in nation after nation as the Gospel spread all over the world and even to this present day. Imagine all those who have gone before us, and the true believers who are celebrating Christmas all over the world far and near even this very night. We, every true follower of Christ who has ever lived and is alive today, are invited, not just to celebrate the birth of this precious baby, but, in fact, we are all members of the wedding party in the most glorious wedding supper of all time. Rev. 19:9 “Write this: Blessed are those who are invited to the wedding supper of the Lamb!” 

This same baby, God in human form, who entered this world in a stable and was laid in a manger grew into manhood and was victorious over death and the grave in order to give us the greatest gift ever given, one that can never be damaged or outdated or unsatisfying; the gift of Grace to save us from our sins.

And this gift, He is still offering it today. At this very moment, he is calling out to the lonely. The sick. The brokenhearted, The imprisoned. The depressed. The hungry. The dying. The lost. The deceived. The fearful. The poor. The proud. The haters. The smallest child and The aged. Those near and those far away.

He said to me: “It is done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End. To the thirsty I will give water without cost from the spring of the water of life. Those who are victorious will inherit all this, and I will be their God and they will be my children. Rev. 21:3-7

It’s why we celebrate – it’s what we celebrate – not just the birth of the savior – but what his birth represents – Emmanuel – God with us – our Savior has come.

An Open Letter – The Christmas Shoes Song

An open letter to the writers, producers and every radio station that plays – The Christmas Shoes song.

tcs

I’m not really sure what exactly an “open letter” is, but I feel compelled to write one anyway. They say, “Be the Change you want to see.” Well, I don’t know how that relates to me writing this letter – but I do hope to make my voice heard.

Much has been said about the Christmas (thank the Lord, it’s just Christmas) song, The Christmas Shoes. Articles, Facebook statuses, tweets… But I, too, have something to say:

If every single solitary person in the whole entire world* HATES this song, why play it?

Have you somehow deceived yourselves into believing that it’s a good song? Do you think that people really like it? If so, who would these (insane) people be? Honestly, I’m just going to say it, the song is not good on any level.

Let’s step aside from the lyrics for a moment and simply focus on the music – Compelling? I don’t think so. Catchy? – it’s about as catchy as leprosy (i.e. – not a lot of people get it stuck in their heads, but those who do, would rather be dead. I don’t think I’m stepping over the line or exaggerating here.)

Now let’s take a look at the lyrics for a moment. In all fairness, I will force myself to look up the lyrics and copy some of them here in this letter. I. Do. Not. Want. To. Do. This. Like, gynecological & dental appointments are way, way higher on the list of things I’d rather do right now than allow the lyrics of The Christmas Shoes to invade my eyeballs – but I will take a deep breath and visualize warm beaches with my loved ones/a handsome, single man in his forties around me and I will get through it.

The Christmas Shoes (excerpts)

I wanna buy these shoes

For my mama. please

It’s Christmas eve and these shoes are just her size

Could you hurry sir

Daddy says there’s not much time

You see,

She’s been sick for quite a while And I

know these shoes will make her smile And I

Want her to look beautiful

If mama meets Jesus tonight

I knew I’d caught a glimpse of heaven’s love as he thanked me and ran out

I knew that God had sent me that little boy to remind me what Christmas is all about

(Deep breath. Happy place, happy place…)

So, the gist of the song seems to be: the little boy wants to buy his mom some shoes for Christmas because she is on her deathbed and he thinks she, or Jesus, are actually going to be concerned about her footwear when she meets Him in heaven. Apparently, the singer of the song believes that footwear in Heaven is really important too, since, according to him that is what Christmas is all about.

I’m kind of at a loss about where to go with this letter. You see, if I have to explain to you why this song is HORRIBLE, then I fear you are incapable of comprehending  the horridness of it. However, I will press on – in all honestly, The Christmas Shoes song has become my own personal Nemesis.

I need you, dear sirs, (I assume you are all men) to understand that this song should be burned to ashes and never be played again. It would also be nice if you would kindly offer psychological counseling to every person who has ever had the misfortune of hearing it.

I’m not asking for much. I do hope you read this open letter. I write it with humor, but in all seriousness, this song is unacceptable. It is upsetting. Ridiculous. UnChristmasy. And really, just bad. It needs to stop.

I would love to hear back from you – specifically the radio stations who choose to play it. As an artist, sure, feel free to write whatever you want, but radio station people, please, PLEASE stop the torture. The destruction of The Christmas Shoes song would totally remind me what Christmas is all about. Let’s make 2014 the last year for The Christmas Shoes; the shoes need to be buried.

Sincerely,

Actually, Honestly and Truly Scarred for Life

PS – Any press is not good press. We write about The Christmas Shoes because it is an atrocity that Must Be Stopped.

***

The Christmas Shoes

Writer(s): Leonard Ahlstrom, Eddie Carswell
Copyright: Sony/ATV Songs LLC, Jerry’S Haven Music, WB Music Corp.

(I put this up for copyright reasons – but if you would like to send them heartfelt notes of why you HATE this song too, please do.)

* (minus the people to whom I am addressing this letter, but maybe you hate it too.)

If you hate this song – please do comment; let’s make our voices heard.

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With Love, Speaking for The People, Rebecca W. Onkar

When I Had Nothing

It’s not Christmas. It’s not even July. But today’s word of inspiration, NOTHING, brought to mind White Christmas.

Blessings

Betty & Bob sitting by the fire singing, Count Your Blessings (Instead Of Sheep).

“When my bankroll is getting small
I think of when I had none at all
And I fall asleep counting my blessings”

A few years ago my girls and I were moving into our own apartment after living with my parents for a couple months. We had nothing. Absolutely nothing. I used to tell people, we don’t even have a toilet brush.

On the day we moved in, there it was – a brand new toilet brush. But not just that, there was furniture, kitchen appliances, bedroom fixtures, curtains and so much more. We had blessing after blessing poured out on us by family and friends and loved ones from our church. Someone even had leftover paint in their garage that was the exact color I had chosen for the walls. To this day I’ve saved the color sheets from Home Depot to remind me of that blessing. I never want to forget.

This post was written a part of 5 minute friday where you are given 1 word and only 5 minutes to write. Find the link here and join in.

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One Good Man

one

Once I was naïve.

I thought I could tell if a man were good or bad, kind or mean.

But I was wrong.

I learned the hard way that a man is not always who he portrays himself to be. I learned the hard way that he could hit and slap, kick and shove, beat and rape, subject you to public humiliations and break your heart.

I learned the hard way that the one person in the entire world who is meant to love and protect you is the one person in the whole world that you need protection from.

Recently I was invited to the 60th birthday celebration of a dear family friend, a man I have known my whole life, a man I admire and respect. You know who you are. We were told, no gifts, just a card. As I sat to write my hand and brain seemed incapable of expressing what was in my heart. It came out a mish mash of random thoughts that probably just seemed weird.

What I wanted to say was this: When I was growing up, I saw men who loved their wives and families. My father. My grandfathers. My uncles. My brothers. My Christian brothers. I was not unaware that there was evil in the world, but I had been exposed to men of integrity all my life, so when a man came along who lacked integrity but radiated charm and possessed a dynamic personality, I was easily deceived.

When I was at last free, my heart was broken once again, then a third time.

I can’t help but think of my favorite Christmas Carol taken from a poem by Longfellow.

Christmas Bells

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!”

At times I feel like changing the words, “There are no good men on earth I said,”

But like Longfellow, I am reminded,

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!”

And I remember those men, the ones that I have witnessed all my life, who love their wives. Who love their children. Who love their God.

And I am thankful for them. They are my own bells that chime to remind me that all men are not bad.