A lone sentry keeping watch from this Martello tower waits anxiously for news from across the English Channel. When it comes his heart sinks with dismay..At the time of the Napoleonic wars there was considerable fear and consternation in England lest what had happened in France during the Revolution should be spread to England. Fearing the worst, following possible defeat by Napoleon, many had visions of mob rule and violence, with the guillotine appearing in the streets of London as it had in Paris previously.
As Wellington went into battle with Napoleon at Waterloo, the whole of England waited anxiously for news of the outcome.
Then the news came. It was June 18th 1815 when a signal ship was spotted coming across the Channel. As the lookout, perhaps standing on this very Martello tower, nervously deciphered the semaphore, the terrible message was spelled out:
Then as the haze thickened, obscuring the ship from further view, the reality of what had happened began to sink in. The worst had happened. All was lost and the country lay at the hands of the French army.
However, later, the haze lifted again and this time the lookout realised that he had only seen the first part of the message. His face lit up as he spelled out the full message to those standing nearby,
“Wellington defeated Napoleon”.
What had at first seemed a disaster, was in fact, a great victory. The nation and the rest of Europe, had been saved.
I wonder if our own church bells were rung to celebrate along with bells all over England?
Earth’s Darkest Hour
In a sense this story is an illustration of that even darker day, which we now call Good Friday. Then the sun was darkened for three hours as if in horror at what was happening and later the rocks broke apart in the earthquake. This terrible news was spreading that the Master, Jesus, was dead and all that he had stood for was destroyed. Now his disheartened and frightened followers lived in fear of their own lives.
But then something happened that has changed the world. Christ rose again from the dead and began appearing to various disciples and the Christian church was born.
On Easter morning church bells will be ringing out across this and thousands of other villages today – a sound that raises the spirits of every Christian believer. Going inside for the morning services there will be a lot of smiles and cheerful faces. If you want to see a church and congregation at its best go to an Easter Sunday Service and join in the celebration that Jesus is risen and alive.
Jesus Defeated Death
As someone has said, “Jesus spoiled every funeral he went to including his own” turning mourning into rejoicing. Standing here in this churchyard, Easter reminds us that, for the Christian believer, the power of death has been broken. We can rise with Christ at the end of our earthly life to live with him for ever. This is very good reason to ring out the church bells and to celebrate this great Easter Day,
As Augustine said “We (Christians) are an Easter people and ‘Alleluia’ is our song.”
In John Bunyan’s classic ‘Pilgrim’s Progress’, as Christian (the Pilgrim) neared the end of his journey at the river he began to be afraid that he might sink. But Hopeful, his companion, encouraged him with these assuring words:
” Be of good cheer, my brother, I feel the bottom, and it is good…..”
We too, if we believe, need have no fear of death, for Jesus has brought us a living hope. The ground ‘is good‘, he has passed this way before us and made it safe for us to follow,
John Bunyan’s story ends with the two pilgrims being welcomed through the gates into the Celestial City:
Then I heard in my dream that all the bells in the City rang again for joy, and that it was said unto them;
“Enter into the joy of your Lord.”
The Easter bells are ringing and it’s time for us to greet the Risen Lord as George Herbert bids us and rise with a new spring in our soul:
Rise heart; thy Lord is risen, Sing his praise
Who takes thee by the hand, that thou likewise
With him mayest rise:
Wishing you ‘a new spring in your soul’ this Easter.