I Heard the Bells

Perhaps even more than today, the world was in great turmoil for Americans during Christmas of 1863. The Civil War was at its climax. Death, division, hatred, pain were everywhere. Contemplating the violence and the vengeance and the chaos in our nation, staring the hopelessness square in the face, Longfellow wrote:

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.

I 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.

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.”

We too live in a world of violence and hatred, a world where everything seems upside down at times…a time when war, though not being fought on our soil, is daily life in many places of the world. We live in a time of suffering and pain for the majority of people around the globe. When we begin to think about the condition of our world, we begin to think with Longfellow that peace is an illusion; it’s hate that always seems to win. Peace means nothing. Those who lie and cheat and steal; those who have the power and the fame and the money; those who can outsmart and outwit others around them seem to always come out on top. We wonder, “How long, O Lord? How long will things continue this way? Will there ever be peace?”

It is in these moments that we need to be reminded of Jesus. Because Jesus comes, we hear the bells. We know that God is not dead, that God is not inactively sleeping somewhere in the universe; but because Christ has come and because Christ will come again, eventually, the wrong and the hatred and the pain of this world will be overcome by the truth and the right and the love found only in Jesus Christ. When the realization of this hits us, no matter what else is going on around us, there is peace! It is in the incarnation that we see things in a totally different light; though wrong and hate may seem in control now, when the curtain is pulled back and everything is seen for what it really is, we will find that God has been in control all the time through Him at whose birth angels declare: “Peace on earth to those with whom God is pleased.”

Merry Christmas!