Just some early morning thoughts from me to you…
”At one time most of my friends could hear the bell, but as the years passed, it fell silent for all of them. Even Sarah found one Christmas that she could no longer hear its sweet sound. Though I’ve grown old, the bell still rings for me as it does for all who truly believe.”
The Polar Express, Chris Van Allsburg 1985
The lighted plastic Santa—now about forty-years-old—is positioned once again as he has been each year since our elder Granddaughter Hannah was born. A bit scratched and faded through the years beginning with her Daddy’s childhood, but still standing eighteen inches tall, he still shines brightly next to the little Christmas tree in the alcove of the bedroom specially designed for our Granddaughters.
And each year our little plastic Santa has received warm hugs from our Granddaughters with accompanying words like “I love you Santa.” Our younger Granddaughter Ellie Kate now makes it a point to hold him snuggly in her arms in front of the lighted tree and whisper over and over—“I love you Santa”. Words of belief and hope. Words forecasting and embracing something magical and inexplicable which will surely happen very soon.
Just like that little boy in the book and movie “The Polar Express”, believed would happen. We watched it again the other night with Hannah and Ellie Kate.
In the story it was Christmas Eve and the little boy was tossing and turning in his bed waiting for the sound he had always been sure would come…the ringing of the bells from Santa’s sleigh. But uncertainty had crept into his mind this year, because earlier that day a friend had insisted that there was no Santa. And the bells had stopped ringing for that friend. Actually, the bells had stopped ringing for a lot of people, especially as they got older.
But the little boy knew and believed deep down inside that the bells would still ring for him. And by the time the story ended, they had—because he believed.
Webster’s New World Dictionary—College Edition defines “believe” as: to take as true, real, etc.; to have confidence in a statement or promise of another (person or thing); to suppose; expect; assume; to have faith, especially religious faith…”
Believe in Santa Claus? Hear the bells ringing? Hmmm?
And what about this one:
“Behold, a virgin shall be with child, and shall bear a Son, and they shall call His name Immanuel,” which is translated, “God with us.”
Believe in the virgin birth? Hear the bells ringing? Maybe hear the voice of Isaiah from so long ago? Hmmm?
What about God becoming man? Hear the bells? Hear the cry of a baby in a manger, in Bethlehem? Hmmm, and hmmm, again?
In a world continuing to spin out of control, you have to wonder what there is to believe in at all. In a world where governments and leaders jockey for status, power, self-serving wins and re-election assurances—not necessarily the best interests of those they are supposed to serve. Where the world is at war and at peril from attack from places known and unknown. Where values are too often determined and altered based upon the latest poll on the street.
In a world where the worst around us—characterized as entertainment—is allowed into our living rooms, bedrooms and the lives of our family through our televisions, movies and other mediums. Where our children stand on street corners and in malls looking for acceptance in all the wrong “gangs” and “fads” and we allow it to happen in the name of allowing them to “find themselves.” Where golfing icons and idols fall on swords of temptation and destruction.
What is there to believe in at all?
When we stop for a moment to think about it, it seems as though there’s not much around us that we can or would want to believe in; certainly nothing that you or I would want to stake our lives—or the lives of our family—upon.
But I heard the bell ring again last night as I watched our two Granddaughters glued to all that was occurring during a two and one-half hour Christmas Festival at Westside Baptist Church. I watched them laser-focused, in the midst of all the activity on the stage, always trying to find Jesus. Focused to finding Him as a Baby in a manger, then a young boy, and then a man—they looked to find Him—always believing, in the midst of all the other stuff—that He was there.
And I believe I heard the bell ring again the other day when their Mom told us that during their trip to Disneyworld the day before, our younger Granddaughter, Ellie Kate, exclaimed after meeting Santa: “Mom, that was Real Santa!”
What is there to truly believe in?
Human leadership and material gain? Not likely. Santa Claus? Perhaps, and why not? Family loyalties and long-term friendships? Of course, and you’re getting closer. A Babe in a manger—Immanuel—God with us? You’ve got it!
As we approach the celebration of the birthday of the Babe of Bethlehem, may I suggest that you set aside all else and listen for the bells you can believe in…listen for the voice of the prophet Isaiah from so long ago…listen for the cry of the Baby in a manger.
Immanuel—God with us! Now that is something we can believe in—today and for all eternity.
In His Name—Scott