25 Songs of Christmas #12 Silver Bells

The other day, I noticed that the mall had put up some Christmas decorations by the main entrance. I was shocked. Well, not really. After all, the Christmas lights I saw were crescent moons and stars. Around here, you don’t hear Christmas music when you go into stores to shop. You don’t get Christmas music on any local stations when you turn on the radio. One of the nearby restaurants does have lights on their tree, but those lights are there year round. Besides, it is the wrong type of tree and wrong type of lights for them to be considered Christmassy. Honestly, outside of the Seatle based coffee shop that has infiltrated every corner of the globe, and apparently now a couple mall entrances, you just can’t find anything that would remind you Christmas is right around the corner.

I am sure most of you who are reading this are being inundated with Christmas images and sounds. You do have busy sidewalks dressed in holiday style. For me personally, the air has a feeling of Christmas, but for most of my community, December is the same as any other month. Perhaps it is a little bit colder than November. Perhaps the year is one number behind January, but that certainly doesn’t seem like a reason to celebrate. It simply means we are in the middle of winter so we should bundle up a little bit tighter. The trees have lost a good two third of their leaves and my guess is that by the time the calendar turns over they will be bare. There are no evergreens in the many parks around my house, and there certainly aren’t any inside the houses. Even if I wanted to purchase one of my own, I wouldn’t have the first clue where to look. Maybe I could fly up to Istanbul, there are enough internationals there that you can probably find a tree if you shopped around. Maybe.

Silver Bells? We don’t have silver bells. There are some former churches that have been turned into mosques and museums. Some of them used to have bells I am sure. But all the Christians that used to populate this city were killed or chased off a bit more than a hundred years ago. Now, all we have ringing out at Christmas time are minarets with loudspeakers. But they are ringing out all year round so it is nothing special now. These minarets are used by the muezzin (the person who shouts out the call to prayer) five times a day. He wails out:

Allahu Akbar
Allahu Akbar
Allahu Akbar
Allahu Akbar
Ashhuadu an la ilaha illa Allah
Ashhuadu an la ilaha illa Allah
Ashhadu anna Muhammadan Rasool Allah
Ashhadu anna Muhammadan Rasool Allah
Hayya ‘ala-s-Salah
Hayya ‘ala-s-Salah
Hayya ‘ala-l-Falah
Hayya ‘ala-l-Falah
Allahu Akbar
Allahu Akbar
La ilaha illa Allah

What that means in English:

God is great (4x)
I bear witness that there is no God except the One (2x)
I bear witness that Muhammad is the messenger of God (2x)
Rise up for prayer (2x)
Rise up for salvation (2x)
God is great (2x)
There is no God except the One God

These are the only “silver bells” that you can hear not just at Christmas but all year round, five times a day. The first time every morning I could almost use as an alarm clock. Currently, it is being called out shortly after 6AM. Since there is a camii (mosque) right next to my apartment, there is no way to tune it out. As the days start to get longer, that noise pollution will get earlier and earlier until by mid-summer it is ringing out around 4:30AM. I guess I should enjoy the opportunity I do currently have to sleep in so late.

What is Christmas like in your corner of the world? Is there a tree in your town that rivals Rockefeller Center? Are there lights up on every other house on your block? Does your own electricity bill triple as you light up the night? Do you have all the bells and lights and holiday glitz and glitter? Do you need it? Are you living somewhere more like me where the only Christmas decorations will be on Starbucks cups and as soon as you leave the coffee shop you can no longer hear Christmas music anywhere? Does that get you down?

Some would say that the very idea of Christmas in Antep would be scandalous. The idea of God becoming a man is the highest of heresies. Trying to promote that concept could land you in a world of trouble. Good. When Jesus came the idea landed him in a bit of trouble too. It got him killed. Not just him. Some of the first sounds we hear in the Christmas story are the clattering of swords, the shouts of soldiers, and the wailing out of mourning mothers. The coming King, the baby born Messiah, the God become man was not welcome news for everyone then. It still isn’t always welcome news today. It never has been. But still, Jesus came. Still, he taught. Still, he lived out his dangerous mission as the light of the world. So we do today. Whether or not there are lights on your trees, be the light the world needs to see. Whether or not there are bells ringing out in your community, be the sound the world needs to hear. It might not be welcomed by everyone, but it is needed for all.

7 thoughts on “25 Songs of Christmas #12 Silver Bells

  1. Praise Jesus, Son of the Living God, who is God of all, not just where He is worshiped or even acknowledged. Your “silver bells” may not ring in honor of Jesus, but take heart that He is with you no matter the circumstances or situation. Take heart brothers and sisters across the world, free or bound, for Jesus has come to save us all. Let our voices shout His praise.

  2. I can’t begin to imagine not being surrounded by Christmas! Even here in sunny Hawaii, Christmas is evident. Our radios play Christmas music singing about snow and cold weather when we have nothing of the sort. Our Christmas events include playing in fake snow while wearing slippahs (flip flops) and shorts. Although this isn’t the Christmas I grew up with, I’m finding a new love for it. It’s made me realize how Christmas is what we make of it. For my family, we stay focused on what the meaning of Christmas is-the birth of Christ-and we don’t need snow or cold weather to celebrate that!

  3. I believe even for those believers who cannot speak about Him, He emanates through them even as they breathe. Christmas for me lives throughout the year, even as my Anglican Church faithfully follows the church calendar, I can on occasion still be playing and singing Christmas music, maybe because it is the music I know and love best.

  4. Thanks so much for your post, it was a good perspective for me to read this morning. Today, I woke up troubled by a church issue – there is a new building near completion, but no plans to move our youth into the new facility, despite the fact that some of our youth have disabilities and need the improved access. An issue, yes. But an issue worth losing sleep over? Perhaps not, when I consider the challenges of being a Christian in your part of the world. God is with you, friend. Merry Christmas!

  5. I so enjoyed reading your blog this morning. I was feeling bad (I have a cold) and this perked me right up. I love Christmas trees and all the lights but I have not decorated my home in many years. Not because I did not want to or did not have a way to, simply because. My husband was diagnosed with Multiple sclerosis about 6 years ago and times have been rocky for us. I simply have not had the strength in my soul to munster up enough Christmas spirit to decorate. What I have done is have enough strength to praise God for sending his only son to save a wretch like me. While I do not hear silver bells in my community, my heart sings “Mary Did You Know?”.

  6. What an excellent post! Many Christians simply can’t imagine parts of the world you describe. The reminder that the king born in a stable and laid in a trough came to suffer and die to give life to believers is often lost. I’m thankful for the reminder today. ❤

  7. This made my heart cry just a little. Christmas is such a precious time for me… It’s so sad to think about not be surrounded by it. Christmas carols are my go to support when life is hard or I’m feeling down — they remind me that God became man… everything is changed now. He knows what it’s like to love your parents, to treasure family and friends… He understands grief from personal experience. I need all the reminders I can get… Immanuel is with us.

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