The Night The Bells Rang

The Night The Bells Rang

Raymond McDonald Alden

Once, long ago, a magnificent church stood on a high hill in a great city. When lighted up for a special festival, it could be seen for miles around. And yet there was something even more remarkable about this church than its beauty: the strange and wonderful legend of the bells.

At the corner of the church was a tall gray tower, and at the top of the tower, so people said, was a chime of the most beautiful bells in the world. But the fact was that no one had heard the bells for many years. Not even on Christmas. For it was the custom on Christmas Eve for all the people to bring to the church their offerings to the Christ child. And there had been a time when a very unusual offering laid on the altar brought glorious music from the chimes far up in the tower. Some said that the wind rang them, and others said that the angels set them swinging. But lately no offering had been great enough to deserve the music of the chimes.

Now a few miles from the city, in a small village, lived a boy named Pedro and his little brother. They knew very little about the Christmas bells, but they had heard of the service in the church on Christmas Eve and they decided to go see the beautiful celebration.

The day before Christmas was bitterly cold, with a hard white crust of snow on the ground. Pedro and his little brother started out early in the afternoon, and despite the cold they reached the edge of the city by nightfall. They were about to enter one of the great gates when Pedro saw something dark on the snow near their path.

It was a poor woman, who had fallen just outside the city, too sick and tired to get in where she might have found shelter. Pedro tried to rouse her, but she was barely conscious. “It’s no use, little brother. You will have to go alone.”
“Without you?” cried the little brother.

Pedro nodded slowly. “This woman will freeze to death if nobody cares for her. Everyone has probably gone to the church now, but when you come back, be sure and bring someone to help her. I will stay here and try to keep her from freezing, and perhaps get her to eat the roll I have in my pocket.”
“But I can’t leave you!” cried his little brother.

“Both of us need not miss the service,” said Pedro. “You must see and hear everything twice, once for you and once for me. I am sure the Christ child knows how I would love to worship him. And if you get a chance, take this silver piece of mine and when no one is looking, lat it down for my offering.”

In this way he hurried his little brother off to the city, and winked hard to keep back the tears of disappointment.

The great church was a brilliant place that night; it had never looked so beautiful. When the organ played and the thousands of people sang, the walls shook with the sound.

At the close of the service came the procession with the offerings to be laid on the altar. Some brought jewels, some heavy baskets of gold. A famous writer laid down a book he had been writing for years. And last of all walked the King of the country, hoping with all the rest to win for himself the chime of the Christmas bells.

A great murmur went through the church as the King took from his head the royal crown, all set with precious stones, and laid it on the altar. “Surely,” everyone said, “we will hear the bells now!” But the cold wind was all that was heard in the tower.

The procession was over, and the choir began playing the closing hymn. Suddenly, the organist stopped playing. The singing ceased. Not a sound could be heard from anyone in the church. As all the people strained their ears to listen, there came softly – but distinctly – the sound of the chimes in the tower. So far away and yet so clear, the music seemed so much sweeter than anything ever heard before.

Then they all stood up together and looked at the altar to see what great gift had awakened the long silent bells. But all they saw was the childish figure of Pedro’s little brother, who had crept softly down the aisle when no one was looking and laid Pedro’s little piece of silver on the altar.

“They all gave out of their wealth; but she, out of her poverty, put in everything…" (Mark 12:44)