He upholds the cause of the oppressed and gives food to the hungry. The LORD sets prisoners free. Psalm 146:7
December 22, 1989 is a day Hans Dieter-Krauss will never forget. And who is Hans Dieter-Krauss? A Romanian pastor whose father had been an avowed atheist, having grown up in Nazi Germany. When young Hans was converted and chose to study for ministry, his father disowned him. Eventually this young man was ordained and appointed to a small church in Brasov where he soon learned there were some things he could do and other things which were forbidden under communism.
On December 22, 1989 Hans awoke to learn that the president of Romania, Nicolai Ceausescu, had been arrested. Under Communism the pastors were severely restricted, but now he felt that things were going to change. Hans Dieter ran to his church and began to pull on the rope ringing the old church bells. He tugged and tugged, perspiring in the cold winter air. I was in his church a few weeks ago and gave the rope a tug to see how much strength it took to manually turn the bell over. It is considerable.
After thirty minutes, Hans Dieter stopped to catch his breath. What he could not know or hear was that all over the city of some 300,000 people, other churches had begun ringing their bells, and a joyous antiphonal harmony of ringing bells—something which had never happened under Communism—was taking place spontaneously. Pastor Krauss briskly walked to the city square in Brasov, and to his surprise, it was filled with people kneeling, facing the church. Some were crying. Some were praying. Some were radiant, but all of them knew that something momentous had taken place, something which would not only make a difference on Christmas day but from that point forward.
Pastor Krauss said that he had prayed for that day when the government would no longer tell him what he could or could not do. It finally came unexpectedly and joyously.
There is a text in Paul’s letter to the Galatians which says, “But when the time had fully come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under law, to redeem those under law, that we might receive the full rights of sons” (Galatians 4:4-5). God’s timetable—whether it is to ring the bells in Brasov or to announce the birth of His Son—is different from ours. Much different! What we consider indifference God simply sees as the background of preparation for His announcement to the world that life will be different in the future because God finally says, “Enough!”
Amazing but true is the fact that when God chose to change history, He sent a baby—tiny, helpless, and unassuming, and this tiny infant grew to manhood and brought us with our faults and failures into a relationship with Him who created our world.
When I thought of the young pastor ringing the bells of his church, I was reminded of a greater challenge, one embodied in the words of the Christmas carol by Harry Bollback which goes, “Ring the bells. Ring the bells, let the whole world know/ Christ was born in Bethlehem many years ago,/ Born to die that man might live,/ Came to Earth, new life to give,/ Born of Mary, Born so low, many years ago./ God the Father gave His son,
Gave His own beloved one/ To this wicked, sinful Earth, to bring mankind His life,/ New birth: Ring the bells, ring the bells, let the whole know/ Christ the Savior lives today as he did so long ago.”
Yes, ring the bells in Brasov, Romania, in Manila, in Quito, in New York and Moscow because God has visited planet Earth to free us from the bondage of our sin.
Resource reading: Psalm 146.
- Galatians 4:4 - 5
- Psalm 146