Christmas Carols - I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day

Christmas Carols - I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day



"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."


This carol first existed as a poem by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow (also known for writing Paul Revere’s Ride). Longfellow wrote this poem on Christmas Day in 1863 – During the Civil War. In his life, Longfellow experienced much heartbreak and loss, including the death of his young wife due to a miscarriage, and then two years prior to writing Christmas Day he had lost his second beloved wife to an unfortunate and terrible accident.


Can you imagine this man, walking down the street on Christmas Day, and as if they were taking no notice of his life’s hardships and the pain and sorrow of this terrible civil war, the bells of the church chime merrily along. They ring loudly in brazen disregard for all of the anger, hurt, pain, frustration, and confusion that all of the people of the town were dealing with


How could there be “Peace on earth” in a time of war? How could there be “goodwill toward men” when any just evaluation of humanity exposes the hate and bitterness that seems to be motiving everyone, everywhere?


Sometimes when our world is shaken by the loss of a loved one, loss of a job, a broken relationship, or general uncertainty in the world around us, we are discomforted and our faith in Jesus may feel trivial or even pointless because Jesus seems to be absent from our world. But Christmas time reminds us that Jesus is not absent. He lived on this earth and experienced much of the same loss that we have felt. He lived in a shifting unpredictable world too. Jesus never tried to escape his hardships, even to his death on the cross. He lived through them, taking every opportunity to give hope and life to others around him as he proclaimed the truth about himself, his Father, and hope of the eternal kingdom to come! His kingdom, where there is no war, where peace and goodwill are abundant!


Because of the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus, we can celebrate with the bells at Christmas time, and sing along with their happy reminder that, “God is not dead, nor does he sleep!” God is always working to usher in his kingdom. We can rejoice because we know that at the end of this world, the “wrong shall fail” and “the right prevail.” The church bells in our hearts can keep on ringing, not because they we ignorant of the state of the world or the state of human hearts, but because the words Jesus spoke to his disciples found in John 16:33 “In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world."


Because of Jesus, we can sing “Peace on earth, goodwill to men!”

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