Bells since antiquity have been used to announce something good or bad or to act as a warning. In the 4th and 5th centuries, bells were added to churches to call the faithful to gather. Those bells, of course, were also used to announce births and deaths. Over the years, sadly bells were also used to tell of war and warn of dangers. “I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day” is a song based on a poem written by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow on December 25, 1864 during a time of war. The song speaks of the personal tragedy he faced along with a triumphal hope he had in God.
Bells also announce joyous occasions and because they are fun and easy to play without much instruction Bells often accompanied Carolers as they sang from home to home. In some instances Carolers would simply play Christmas carols with handbells alone. Remember, bell announce things. “Come on, Ring Those Bells” is an illustration of this that ties directly into Christmas. Bells are the theme of another traditional Christmas song “The Carol of the Bells”. In fact that song written in Ukraine for the new year, however, after being performed in America it was adopted as a Christmas carol.
In Jewish history bells performed a very essential function. In accordance with specific instructions given to Moses, the robe of the Jewish high priest had bells woven onto the hem. Gold Bells alternated with pomegranates hung from the bottom of the high priest’s robe so that they could be heard ringing as the high priest went about his duties ministering in the sanctuary. Bells serve as symbols of joy and also as a reminder of the babe born so long ago who became The High Priest who forever makes intercession for the saints.
This Christmas season as you go about your day, if you happen to hear or see bells, be reminded that they are announcing a most joyous occasion and we ourselves can become like bells, spreading the word and carrying the message to others.
When the angels had left them and gone into heaven,
the shepherds said to one another,
‘Let us go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened,
which the Lord has told us about.’
So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph
and the baby, who was lying in the manger.
When they had seen him,
THEY SPREAD THE WORD
concerning what had been told them about this child.