Can You Hear It?
The church sanctuary felt cold as we gathered to decorate for Advent. Unpacking the boxes of long evergreen garlands, large red bows, and chrismons for the trees, we needed Christmas music to help us get in the spirit and to banish the overwhelmed feelings of the huge project.
Soon everyone hummed along to the familiar carols as the bows and greenery were hung. Warmth of Christmas peace replaced the chill of the air.
A song came on that mentioned peace on earth, good will to men.
“These words are ever true today,” my daughter said.
I listened. Very true.
Written by Henry W. Longfellow during the American Civil War, this carol speaks of the truth and hope we need today.
Longfellow was in a period of despair in his personal life. His beloved wife died in a freak accidental fire. His son served in the army, was severely injured in the war and soon died. The war, coupled with his wife’s and sons deaths led him to feel hopeless and bleak. His pen fell silent.
Then on Christmas day, 1864, he heard the church bells. The sound awakened the call for hope peace on earth within him. His grief gave way to peace. He wrote the poem “Christmas Bells.”
“I heard the bells on Christmas day their old familiar carols play,
And mild 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. “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.”
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!”
In 1872 the poem was set to music and became “I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day.”
The message of ‘peace on earth, good will to men’ still needs to be proclaimed today, perhaps more than ever. Like Longfellow, we can be in despair, wondering how there can be peace when there are wars on the global level and stress on the personal level.
But listen closely…can you hear it?
The quiet message of Christmas peace can be heard through the noise and chaos of life. It’s what the angels sang on the first Christmas:
“Peace on earth, Good will to men.”
Only the Savior brings that peace to our hearts.
O come, Emmanuel!