Christmas Bells

During the American Civil War, the Poet, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow wrote the words to the well-known Christmas Carol that begins with "I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day." Some time back, I heard about the story behind it, and it encouraged me.

Longfellow is more famous today for the poem, "Paul Revere's Ride," and "Hiawatha." At the time he wrote "Christmas Bells," he had already lost his wife and his son had been wounded in the war.

In the song we see his despair of ever seeing the "Peace On Earth, Good Will To Men" that the church bells and and the Christmas Story presents to us. However, he recovered his faith and hope by the end of the poem much like the Psalmist Asaph in the Bible. The first 2 and last 2 verses are quoted here:

"Christmas Bells" by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

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!


 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."


When a person encounters Christ and His power and love is revealed, it is only natural to experience great joy and optimism. It is easy to believe in the promises of God and to have great hope for the future not only in heaven but in this life as well. The world around us with its cares and struggles can seriously damper that hope. In some churches despair of seeing any kind of peace on this planet has become codified. Some even cry "heresy" when the suggestion is made that God is presently at work to advance His Kingdom on earth.

When I heard the story of Longfellow I understood the poem better than before, and identified with him very much. I too have difficulty seeing the time to come when the wrong shall fail and the right prevail, when nations shall put an end to war, when the "knowledge of the glory of the Lord covers the earth as the waters cover the sea!"

But like Longfellow, the Word of God rises up in my heart again and again to encourage me in His work and in my deep conviction that we can and will see "Peace On Earth, Good Will To Men!"


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Christmas Bells
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