Do you like the movie The Polar Express? I sure do–OK, so it’s not Disney, but I can like non-Disney movies too 🙂 Based on a children’s book by Chris Van Allsburg of the same title, The Polar Express follows a young boy who travels via train to the North Pole.
Doubtful about Santa Claus, the Hero Boy must SEE to BELIEVE. While at the North Pole, he receives the first gift of Christmas in the form of a sleigh bell from Santa’s sleigh. “Santa says, This bell is a wonderful symbol of the spirit of Christmas, as am I. Just remember, the true spirit of Christmas lies in your heart.”
Losing the bell on the journey home, he is brokenhearted. But on Christmas morning, he finds the bell under the tree with a note from “Mr. C.” When he shakes the bell, he and his sister, Sarah can hear the bell ringing, but his parents cannot. As the final line of the movie, The Hero Boy narrates:
“At one time, most of my friends could hear the bell, but as 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.”
I choose to think that the greater message of The Polar Express lies in its spiritual meaning. “Believe”–the message punched on the ticket–speaks beyond a mere belief in Santa Claus but rather in Jesus Christ. Like the Hero Boy, Christians hope for a lifetime of hearing that symbolic bell of belief ringing.
Bells ringing. And then I made the connection like I usually do to songs. It makes me think of “I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day.” The origin of this song stems from the poem “Christmas Bells” written in 1863 by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow. At the time, Longfellow was in despair over his wife’s untimely death when her dress caught on fire from dripping wax, and was also reeling from news of his son’s injuries in battle in the Civil War.
He was about as low as you can get. Peace and hope were remote concepts. And yet…Longfellow writes, “God is not dead, nor doth He sleep; the wrong shall fail, the right prevail.” The bells–reminders that God is with us.
12 years after the Civil War ended, this poem inspired by bloody conflict and personal turmoil became a Christmas carol thanks to the work of John Baptiste Calkin. Calkin, an English composer and music teacher, removed the more war torn references from the poem and set it to a familiar tune. Here’s my favorite part:
Do you hear the bells they’re ringing?
They’re like the angels singing
Open up your heart and hear them
Peace on earth, good will to men
Peace on earth, Peace on earth
Peace on earth, Good will to men.”
Enjoy this video of Casting Crowns as they perform “I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day.”
Believe. Peace on Earth. Listen for the Bells…