Ring a Bell Sunday, to Ring Out the Old Year

Today was the first Sunday after Christmas.

I preached at a friend’s church because he was traveling. At that?church, it’s a tradition to ring bells to accompany the hymn-singing on the final Sunday of the year. He had warned me, so I brought along an old school bell that sits on the shelf in my study. The ushers passed baskets of sleigh-type bells.

When I asked people where the tradition came from, or what it meant, nobody knew. (Which proves that it’s a tradition, right? Churches abound with these.)

“I heard the bells on Christmas day?” one woman suggested, tentatively, humming.

“Their old familiar carols play,” we, ahem, chimed in.

Good enough.

Bell-ringing was a fun tradition. We did “On this Day Earth Shall Ring” and “Go Tell It On the Mountain.” I can think of many Christmas songs which would sound great with bells. And yes, Christmastide is just beginning, isn’t it? The church begins its Christmas music as the rest of the world moves on to “Auld Lang Syne.”

I’ll tell you what: I enjoyed the ringing more than I anticipated. Ring soft, or ring loud. Ring in rhythm, or in syncopation. Ring on the verses, or only on the refrains.

I noticed three pre-teens in the front row who were taking their cue from me, so I rang with gusto, which of course made it more fun. Things are always more fun when you do them with gusto. It made a joyful sound on a dreary rainy day when the Christmas cookies have turned to crumbs. Jesus is still here!

What traditions does your church celebrate during this post-holiday season? Does this one ring a bell?


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