Peace on Earth…Good Will to All…

     Tears blur the computer screen this morning as I type today’s blog post. I’m watching for the second time a youtube video of Casting Crowns singing the Christmas Carol, I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day.[1]

     The words of this poignant song were written as a poem by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow on Christmas Day, 1863. Civil war raged in a divided nation. The cruel war pitted friend against friend, brother against brother. Before it ended in 1865, more than 600,000 soldiers had lost their lives.

     As I type that enormous number, I’m reminded of a saying we have at our church,

Every number has a name; every name has a story; every story matters to God.

     I cannot help but think about the 600,000 plus stories of those Civil War soldiers. The stories of many more than 600,00 loved ones were impacted by the devastating losses. I wonder how many questioned: God, do you even care about my loved-one’s story?

     Two years prior to writing this poem, Longfellow’s beloved wife lost her life in a fire. Only a month before writing these words, his eldest son was critically wounded in the Battle of New Hope Church in Virginia.

     Peace wasn’t part of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s reality on that Christmas Day in 1863.

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow (1807-1882)[2]

Christmas Bells

I HEARD the bells on Christmas Day
Their old, familiar carols play,
And wild and sweet
The words repeat
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!

And thought how, as the day had come,
The belfries of all Christendom
Had rolled along
The unbroken song
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!

Till ringing, singing on its way,
The world revolved from night to day,
A voice, a chime,
A chant sublime
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!

Then from each black, accursed mouth
The cannon thundered in the South,
And with the sound
The carols drowned
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!

It was as if an earthquake rent
he hearth-stones of a continent,
And made forlorn
The households born
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!

And in despair I bowed my head;
There is no peace on earth,” I said;
For hate is strong,
And mocks the song
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!”

Then pealed the bells more loud and deep:
“God is not dead, nor doth He sleep;
The Wrong shall fail,
The Right prevail,
With peace on earth, good-will to men.”

     This morning I watched the news.

     Fires rage in Southern California. Hundreds of families are losing their homes less than a month before Christmas.

     Anger rages in the Middle East. Palestinian citizens promise days of rage in response to a contentious political decision. Violence in Bethlehem, the birthplace of Christmas, sullies the angelic announcement given the night of our Savior’s birth:

‘Peace on Earth, good will to men’

     On the news this morning, I heard Republicans castigating Democrats, Liberals berating Conservatives. Across the U.S.—the nation I love and have always called home—friends avoid friends and families are fractured because of deep political divides.

     As I sit in my warm, comfortable home, all decorated for my favorite season of the year, I’m feeling sad.

     I’m tempted to bow my head in despair because of the state of our nation. Part of me wants to weep for the condition of the world.

     Hate seems so strong! Songs of the season, echoing the message of the angels that long-ago Christmas morn, seem mocked by so many.

     Then I’m reminded.

          God is God


                    The Great “I AM.”

     While people may mock God,

…God is not mocked…(Galatians 6:7)

     Nations may refuse a peace process, but the angels’ message of peace remains because

     Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever. (Hebrews 13:8)

and Jesus remains

The Prince of Peace. (Isaiah 9:6)

     Rather than despairing, I’m determined instead to declare the final stanza in Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s poem:

Then pealed the bells more loud and deep:
“God is not dead, nor doth He sleep;
The Wrong shall fail,
The Right prevail,
With peace on earth, good-will to men.”

My Prayer: Lord, help me to be an instrument of your peace in the little corner of the world where you have placed me. Keep my tongue from speaking hateful, divisive words. Never let me lose the hope for a peace-filled family, community, nation and world. Amen

Sue Reeve




4 thoughts on “Peace on Earth…Good Will to All…

  1. Beautiful, Sue. This song has been a favorite of mine for many years and I remember the first time I read about Longfellow and what led up to his penning this poem. It holds a special place in my heart. Thanks for writing about it.
    Merry Christmas, my friend,
    Judy Lovitt

  2. May you be blessed…

    With the spirit of the season, which is peace,

    The gladness of the season, which is hope,

    And the heart of the season, which is love.

  3. I needed this message today. Thank you, Sue, for telling the background of the song. We thank God for the living hope of Jesus born, died, and resurrected.

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