Let us go much into the presence of the natural world if we can get at it. Especially if we live in great thoroughfares let us make occasional flight to the woods and the mountains. Even the trees in town seem artificial. They dare not speak where there are so many to listen, and the hyacinth and geranium in flower pots in the window seem to know they are on exhibition. If we would once in a while romp the fields, we would not have so many last year’s rose leaves in our sermons, but those just plucked, dewy and redolent.
We cannot see the natural world through the books or the eyes of others. All this talk about “babbling brooks” is a stereotyped humbug. Brooks never “babble.” To babble is to be unintelligent and imperfect of tongue. But when the brooks speak, they utter lessons of beauty that the dullest ear can understand. We have wandered from the Androscoggin in Maine to the Tombigbee in Alabama, and we never found a brook, that “babbled.” The people babble who talk about them, not knowing what a brook is. We have heard about the nightingale and the morning lark till we tire of them. Catch for your next prayer meeting talk a chewink or a brown thresher. It is high time that we hoist our church windows, especially those over the pulpit, and let in some fresh air from the fields and mountains.
The sexton often goes into the tower on a sad errand. He gives a strong pull at the rope, and forth from the tower goes a dismal sound that makes the heart sink. But he can now go up the old stairs with a lithe step and pull quick and sharp, waking up all the echoes of cavern and hill with Christmas bells. The days of joy have come, days of reunion, days of congratulation. “Behold I bring you good tidings of great joy that shall be to all people.”
First, let the bells ring at the birth of Jesus! Mary watching, the camels moaning, the shepherds rousing up, the angels hovering, all Bethlehem stirring. What a night! Out of its black wing is plucked the pen from which to write the brightest songs of earth and the richest doxologies of heaven. Let camel or ox stabled that night in Bethlehem, after the burden-bearing of the day, stand and look at Him who is to carry the burdens of the world. Put back the straw and hear the first cry of Him who is come to assuage the lamentation of all ages.
Christmas bells ring out the peace of nations! We want on our standards less of the lion and eagle and more of the dove. Let all the cannon be dismounted, and the war horses change their gorgeous caparisons for plough harness. Let us have fewer bullets and more bread. Life is too precious to dash it out against the brick casements. The first Peace Society was born in the clouds, and its resolution was passed unanimously by angelic voices, “Peace on earth, good-will to men.”