Bethlehem Lutheran Church

The Heart of Bay Ridge
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Sunday Service 10:30am
4th & Ovington Avenues
Brooklyn NY  11209
718.748.9502
Rev. Paul H. Knudsen
Pastor Paul's December Message 
Bethlehem Lutheran Church ®  |  4th & Ovington Avenues, Brooklyn NY 11209  |  718.748.9502
A member of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA)


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Dear Members and Friends,

​In my Christian Living class this month, we will be reading “The Bells”, by Edgar Allan Poe. The poem has four parts to it; each part becomes darker and darker as the poem progresses from "the jingling and the tinkling" of the bells in part 1 to the "moaning and the groaning" of the bells in part 4. Poe begins with a sleigh ride, silver bells and merriment. He moves on to mellow golden wedding bells, depicting happiness and harmony. In part 3, we have brazen alarm bells, shrieking out of tune to warn of a fire. Finally, Poe concludes with the tolling of the iron bells. They are solemn, melancholy, monotone, throbbing, sobbing funeral bells. Each part poetically describes bells, but very different emotions are communicated in each.

When we first installed our carillon in the Bethlehem bell tower, we received positive feedback from many people in our community. People would stop and look up at our tower and smile as they heard the bells playing familiar hymns and tolling each hour. I remember spending 20 minutes on the phone, however, listening to a woman who was completely distraught over our bells. She lived in the apartment building on 4th Avenue right next to the church. Our beautiful carillon bells for her, were a terrible, tragic reminder of her loved ones death and the sound of our hourly toll penetrated her heart at every ring. She was inconsolable, so we modified the volume and frequency of our bells to ease her pain.

It is clear that bells have the ability to solicit the gamut of emotions, from joy to sorrow, from harmony to chaos. The same holds true for the Christmas season. For some, this is the most wonderful time of the year. For others, it is the most difficult time of the year. I was speaking to one of our members recently who described the large family gatherings she would host every Christmas. Last year, she spent her Christmas alone. We have young families with children gleefully opening presents under the tree. We have Meals on Wheels recipients with no one to wish them a Merry Christmas except for the meal deliverer.

Yes, we all experience Christmas in our own unique way and so much depends on our current life situation. But, no matter what our emotional reaction to Christmas might be this year, the message is always the same. Christmas is the celebration of the birth of Jesus Christ. Our Lord and savior was born in the humblest of surroundings. God broke into this world as a little child. There were shepherds, angels, wise men, Mary & Joseph and a baby. On Christmas we were given the gift of a savior, who is Christ the Lord.

Whether we are alone or surrounded by a hundred people, the message of Christmas is unchanged. “Do not be afraid; for see – I am bringing you good news of great joy for all the people: to you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ, the Lord.” Oh, the bells, bells, bells…

In God’s Service,