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From loss to hope

From loss to hope

From Loss to Hope

The joy of the Christmas season this year has been mingled with the pain of the death of the children in Sandy Hook elementary school.  It raises the persistent question of how we move from loss or pain to hope and joy.

One of Alfred, Lord Tennyson's greatest works grew out of the most painful loss of his life, the death of his best friend and his sister's fiancé, Arthur Henry Hallam, at age 22.  The original title was "The Way of the Soul" though it is now known as "In Memoriam."   It's a long poem.  Tennyson worked on it for 17 years, which at least suggests that the way from grief to hope is not a sprint but a marathon.  Tennyson marked his journey with the passing of three Christmas celebrations. 

Midway through the poem, there's an abrupt change in the rhythm.  Tradition says that Tennyson awoke one morning to the ringing of the bells in Waltham Abbey.  His words have an amazingly contemporary ring as we enter into the new year. 

Ring out, wild bells, to the wild sky,
The flying cloud, the frosty light;
The year is dying in the night;
Ring out, wild bells, and let him die.

Ring out the old, ring in the new,
Ring, happy bells, across the snow:
The year is going, let him go;
Ring out the false, ring in the true.

Ring out the grief that saps the mind,
For those that here we see no more,
Ring out the feud of rich and poor,
Ring in redress to all mankind.

Ring out a slowly dying cause,
And ancient forms of party strife;
Ring in the nobler modes of life,
With sweeter manners, purer laws.

Ring out the want, the care, the sin,
The faithless coldness of the times;
Ring out, ring out thy mournful rhymes,
But ring the fuller minstrel in.

Ring out false pride in place and blood,
The civic slander and the spite;
Ring in the love of truth and right,
Ring in the common love of good.

Ring out old shapes of foul disease,
Ring out the narrowing lust of gold;
Ring out the thousand wars of old,
Ring in the thousand years of peace.

Ring in the valiant man and free,
The larger heart the kindlier hand;
Ring out the darkness of the land,
Ring in the Christ that is to be.

May we hear the bells that ring out old ways of living so that we can ring in the new year with hope.