Source: Oinos Educational Consulting
by Frank Marangos, D.Min., Ed.D., FCEP
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Bells are used to tell time, sound an alarm, call to worship, toll the passing of loved ones, commemorate historical events, and express joy. By recalling God’s Gift of the Incarnation of His Son, Christmas bells also encourage philanthropic generosity.
Bells are only mentioned once in Holy Scripture. Attached to Aaron’s vestments and “heard when he went into the Holy Place before the Lord” (Exodus 28:33-35), the sound of the High Priest’s bells indicated the condition of Israel’s relationship with God. While the sound of his bells signaled a healthy integration of the Old Testament’s two primary Commandments – love of God and love of neighbor – their silence suggested humanity’s estrangement from both.
The Salvation Army’s red kettle bells best illustrate the missive of this mystical expression. The tradition began in 1891, when Joseph McFee, a Salvation Army captain, decided to provide hot soup for the homeless in San Francisco. On Christmas day he rang a bell and asked for donations to “Keep the pot boiling!” By 1897, nationwide Christmas bell-ringers raised enough money to feed 150,000 people. Today, the Salvation Army serves nearly 5 million people during the Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays.
A tradition in nearly every part of the world, Christmas bells provide a wonderful societal reminder of servanthood. Apart from celebrating the “Good News” – that God has accepted to dwell among us – the joyful chimes of Christmas should also encourage us to do our part in keeping the pot of philanthropic love boiling!