“I heard the bells on Christmas day. Their old familiar carols play. And mild and sweet their songs repeat. Of peace on earth good will to men. And the bells are ringing (peace on earth) Like a choir they're singing (peace on earth) In my heart I hear them (peace on earth) Peace on earth, good will to men.” Lyrics of the song, I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day.)
Peace on earth good will to men. We have entered the season of Advent, preparing for the day of our Savior’s birth. Trees are lit, gifts have been bought, and families gather together in celebration. Something, however, is missing. Something that we long for, pray for, hope for—Peace on earth, good will to men.
War has been a part of our lives for too many years now. War abroad and sadly war within our nation. Tempers flair. Fear engulfs. Lives are lost. And, yet, we continue to hope, and we listen for the bells ringing (peace on earth)
Henry Wadsworth Longfellow wrote the poem “Christmas Bells” which ultimately led to the Christmas carol “I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day” while our country was in the midst of the Civil War, and he was in the midst of depression from losing his beloved wife, Fanny as a result of an accidental fire, and his son Charles suffering a crippling injury in war. There was no peace for our country, nor for his soul. His head was bowed in despair and he was certain there was no peace on earth—For hate was strong and mocked the song. Hate and despair could not, however, silence the bells.
“Then rang the bells more loud and deep. God is not dead, nor does he sleep (peace on earth, peace on earth). The wrong shall fail, the right prevail. With peace on earth, good will to men. Then 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. And the bells they're ringing (peace on earth). Like a choir they're singing (peace on earth). And with our hearts we'll hear them (peace on earth). Peace on earth, good will to men”
(The following is a direct quote from Tom Steward – Dec. 20, 2001) “The first Christmas after Fanny's death, Longfellow wrote, ‘How inexpressibly sad are all holidays.’ A year after the incident, he wrote, ‘I can make no record of these days. Better leave them wrapped in silence. Perhaps someday God will give me peace.’ Longfellow's journal entry for December 25th 1862 reads: ‘‘A merry Christmas' say the children, but that is no more for me.’ Almost a year later, Longfellow received word that his oldest son Charles, a lieutenant in the Army of the Potomac, had been severely wounded with a bullet passing under his shoulder blades and taking off one of the spinal processes. The Christmas of 1863 was silent in Longfellow's journal…. Finally, on Christmas Day of 1864, he wrote the words of the poem, "Christmas Bells."… Longfellow's Christmas bells loudly proclaimed, ‘God is not dead.’… Even more, the bells announced, ‘Nor doth He sleep.’… ‘The wrong shall fail, the right prevail’…the message that the Living God is a God of Peace is proclaimed in the close of the carol: ‘Of peace on Earth, good will to men.’”
This past year has been tumultuous for our nation. [2016 & 2020] Peace has been nowhere to be found. Many have endured their own times of despair. Hate this past year has been strong and has done everything in its power to mock the song. But, the bells refuse to be silenced.
“God is not dead, nor doth He sleep,” they sing. “Then 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. And the bells they're ringing (peace on earth). Like a choir they're singing (peace on earth). And with our hearts we'll hear them (peace on earth). Peace on earth, good will to men”
The year is 2020 and our nation is once again divided. Brother fights against brother. A war rages within our very borders. A virus named Covid holds our people hostage. Peace? But if we listen closely, we just may be able to hear the bells ringing--Peace on earth good will to men.
Can you hear them? Listen closely. The bells will continue to ring through the chaos and strife, through war and fear, through loss and despair—the Christmas bells will continue to ring. Can you hear them?
“Do you hear the bells they're ringing? (peace on earth) The life the angels singing (peace on earth) Open up your heart and hear them (peace on earth) Peace on earth, good will to men.”
Please take a few minutes to enjoy the music video below by Casting Crowns, I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day.