“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, goodwill to men!”
Then pealed the bells more loud and deep: “God’s not dead, nor doth He sleep;
The Wrong shall fail, The Right prevail, With peace on earth, goodwill to men.”
-I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day
“Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.” Luke 2:14
“I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day” is a poem by Longfellow (It was later converted into a Christmas carol). It is a beautiful reminder of the hills and valleys we travel through in this world. Written during the Civil War and after the death of his daughter, despair and grief were Longfellow’s focus – at least in the beginning. He couldn’t see God through the chaos and sadness. He became hopeless. He found no peace and felt no goodwill to men. The poem was written in 1863 yet the words still speak strongly today.
Even in our darkest days, God is still with us and brings us out of darkness into His light. Longfellow heard those bells and he was reminded that “God is not dead, nor doth He sleep; The Wrong shall fail,The Right prevail,With peace on earth, goodwill to men.” His despair turned to hope and thanksgiving. The peace which rang out with those church bells is the same peace offered to us. It is a gift through our faith in Jesus Christ.
Church bells are one of my favorite sounds. One day when I was traveling, I stopped by this old painted church to take pictures. I pulled into the empty parking lot and right when I got out of the car, the church bells rang out the hymn, “Blessed Assurance”. I froze. Tears streamed down my face as I stood in awe remembering the blessed assurance we were given on Christmas morning so long ago – an assurance bringing peace, hope and goodwill to men.
“We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair;” 2 Corinthians 4:8
Lord, as I listen to Christmas hymns this season, help me to stop and meditate on the beautiful messages of peace and goodwill to men that they offer. Let the words resonate in my heart not only at Christmas, but all throughout the new year.