William and Mary College of Williamsburg, Virginia, is the second oldest college in the United States. Founded in 1691, it was named for King William and Queen Mary of England. It’s history and traditions have helped set the norm and standards for scores of colleges throughout our country.
In the years following the American Civil War (known as the Reconstruction Period) the South lay in ruins with it’s economy devastated. William and Mary College suffered tremendous hardship during this time. There was no money to rebuild its damaged buildings or pay its professors. Few families could afford tuition, and so in 1881 the college closed its doors!
Weeds grew everywhere throughout the campus, the roof tumbled in, and windows were broken. William and Mary was soon abandoned, forgotten and a “lost cause” to most people, except for the efforts of one man.
The college president, R.J. Ewell, determined he would not allow all he had loved and invested his life in to die. So without a budget and the deserted campus in ruins, Ewell would go to the bell tower each morning and ring the bell. Acting as if there were still students and classes in session, he rang this bell without fail for seven years straight!
Most of the people of the day called him, “foolish”’ if not “crazy” to labor for such a lost cause. Yet, this man continued to ring the bell in defiance of the despair and hopelessness that threatened everything he held dear.
As a result, Ewell’s dream did not die! William and Mary College reopened its doors in 1888. Today it is one of the most thriving and prestigious institutions of learning in our country … and perhaps because of one man who would not stop ringing that bell!
In a similar way, this is what the season of advent is like: “ringing the bell” and holding tight to a hope, a promise, and a vision. For many generations, Jews looked forward to the coming of the Messiah. Century after century, they continued telling the story of the Promised One to come.
Certainly, many onlookers considered them to be foolish, if not crazy! Yet, in the backwoods town of Bethlehem, that Long-awaited One finally made his entrance into human history!
And today, at this point in time, not only do we celebrate those who held that promise in the past and refused to give up hope … but today we also wait and long for the day that Jesus will return to this earth.
It’s been close to 2,000 years of anticipation and appreciation and many have given up hope, and they consider us foolish, if not crazy. Yet in this season of Advent, we “ring the bells” to let the world know, he will return. The promise will be fulfilled. Jesus Christ will re-enter human history as the scripture foretold.
So may we never tire of “ringing those bells” in these days of Advent. May the whole world come to know, Jesus will return to make us his own.
So ring those bells, Christians! Ring them loud! Ring them clear! Ring them faithfully!