Have you ever thought about how many songs of Christmas are about bells?
Carol of the Bells: Hark, how the bells, sweet silver bells, all seem to say, throw cares away,
I heard the Bells on Christmas Day: Their old familiar carols play, And mild and sweet their songs repeat
Ding dong merrily on high, In heav'n the bells are ringing: Ding dong! verily the sky
Ring Out Ye Bells: right merrily, for Christmas is here; sing out, sweet voices cheerily
Jingle Bells: Jingle all the way, O what fun it is to ride in a one horse open sleigh
Silver Bells: Silver bells, It's Christmas time in the city, Ring-a-ling, hear them ring,
Are you singing now to the sound of Christmas Bells Ringing? I know I can’t stop singing when the carols start and the bells start chiming. For me, and I would guess for most of you the sound of bells at Christmas bring you to a joyful place. In one of the congregations I served, the bells would chime out a Christmas tune at the hour. So while I was at work I had this daily reminder during the Christmas season to stop and sing about the coming of hope into the world. But at another church I served when the bell would chime it was to signal the start of worship or it would start tolling ringing out the years in the life of someone who had died – 70, 80, 90, 40, 10 – the tolls of the bell would call you back to remembrance of a life that was lost.
In some ways, the bells we will be experience this Advent, will be a mixture of the joyful ringing of Christmas Carols and the somber tolling of a life lost. Bells play an important role in A Christmas Carol, by Charles Dickens.
The ancient tower of a church, whose gruff old bell was always peeping slyly down at Scrooge out of a Gothic window in the wall, became invisible, and struck the hours and quarters in the clouds, with tremulous vibrations afterwards as if its teeth were chattering in its frozen head up there.
…. As he threw his head back in the chair, his glance happened to rest upon a bell, a disused bell, that hung in the room, and communicated for some purpose now forgotten with a chamber in the highest story of the building. It was with great astonishment, and with a strange, inexplicable dread, that as he looked, he saw this bell begin to swing. It swung so softly in the outset that it scarcely made a sound; but soon it rang out loudly, and so did every bell in the house. This might have lasted half a minute, or a minute, but it seemed an hour. The bells ceased as they had begun, together.A Christmas Carol, Charles Dickens, Stave One
The bells in the story begin to chime signally that spirits are drawing near. When the bells toll Scrooge is drawn from his current world of fear, greed, grouchiness to visit places he has been or will be. When the bell tolls he knows that he will be learning about himself, and be slowly drawn to a new life, a life of joy. The bell tolls and a messenger comes bringing news. This Advent we too will listen to the bell toll inviting us to hear the messenger who invited us to change to move from the chains that are holding us down into a world of love and hope. I invited you to use the sound of bells tolling to deepen your faith this Advent. Every time a bell chimes take a moment to remind yourself of the chains you need to lay down and to pray for God to fill you with love. Will you listen as the bells toll drawing you into transformation, inviting you into a life lived in the presence of God.