Tuesday, December 19: I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day
The song I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day is based on a poem, Christmas Bells, written by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow in 1863. The poem was written after a dark period in Longfellow’s life. The accidental death of his second wife and his son being severely injured in the Civil War affected his frame of mind and are reflected in some lyrics in the song:
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.
Here we are over 150 years later and each of us could say the same thing about the state of the world today. In an ideal world, human beings would love and care for each other as directed by God. Yet, too many people are suffering from war, unprovoked violence, and natural disasters. It is more common to hear messages of hate than messages of love. It would be easy to succumb to a feeling of hopelessness, but those whose faith is strong are reassured and optimistic based on God’s promise. It appears that Longfellow also believed in that promise:
Then rang the bells more loud and deep
God is not dead, nor does he sleep
The wrong shall fail, the right prevail
With peace on earth, good will to men.
Longfellow’s words go on to encourage us to open our hearts, hear the bells ring and the angels sing. Christmas carols are meant to tell the Christmas story and express praise and joy. This song tells the story of a man who was deeply affected by events in his life, yet his hope for goodness is repeated frequently in the refrain “peace on earth and good will to men”. This phrase is one we can pray for every day, not just during the Christmas season.
Dear God, Thank you for loving and caring for us. Give us the strength to deal with adversity and continue to be your faithful servants. Amen.