Read Luke 1:31-38
As you pause and slow down after the Christmas season, you might find that your heart is still troubled. You’ve just been operating at 100 miles an hour this time of year, running to and fro, and feeling a sense of pressure to get everything done. On top of that, you may be remembering loved ones you’ve lost, finding yourself in a difficult family situation or without family to celebrate with. As you look around, you continue to feel discouraged at the division and hatred between people. Perhaps, for you, Christmas was anything but peaceful.
Henry David Longfellow experienced many of these same emotions as he wrote the song “I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day.” In July 1861, his wife died suddenly to a fire. Two and a half years later, his country was in the midst of the Civil War. On Christmas Day of 1863, he sat down to honestly reflect on the so-called “joyful” Christmas season as he wrote the lyrics to this song.
The first stanza reads:
I heard the bells on Christmas day,
Their old familiar carols play,
And wild and sweet the words repeat
Of peace on earth, goodwill to men.
By the time he began to write the third stanza, he stopped. He reflected on the striking difference between the phrase “Of peace on earth, good will to men” and the reality of a nation at war. He writes,
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.”
We can relate to these feelings in our own lives today, both individually and as a country. Pain and division seem so strong. So where will we turn? Where will we find peace?
The song continues:
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.”
Longfellow turned his thoughts to the one who can ultimately solve all problems.
This world will not be easy or smooth sailing, yet we have hope of true peace. Upon hearing that her child “will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High,” Mary asks, “How will this be, since I am a virgin?” The angel assures Mary by closing with the statement “For nothing will be impossible with God.” Later, Jesus himself says, “I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world” (John 16:33). Today, as we consider Jesus, the hope of peace in the midst of trouble times, be encouraged by these words.
Reflection and Response
Jesus came. Jesus died. Jesus rose again. Jesus ascended into heaven. Jesus is coming again. Today, we can claim victory in him – for he has defeated death, and he has conquered sin. Claim Jesus’ victory by writing this out and then speaking aloud over your life:
“God is not dead, nor doth He sleep; The wrong shall fail, the right prevail, With peace on earth, good will to men.”
By Billy Berglund