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(The video above is Casting Crowns’ unique version of this old carol. I don’t often like re-made melodies of classic carols. In this case, I heartily make an exception!)

1. 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.

2. 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.

3. 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.’

4. 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.’

5. Till 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.

I think I have mentioned before that I enjoy poetry but must often claim ignorance when reading it–especially if it doesn’t rhyme–elementary, I know. Longfellow, however, is one of those rare poets I can read and actually feel the heart of God beating through the lines and stanzas of his work (I guess it helps that often his poetry rhymes). It’s very nearly like reading the Psalms.

Especially this poem, which Longfellow penned on Christmas Day, 1864, three years weary from tragedy upon tragedy: his wife being burned to death despite his frantic efforts to save her, and a severely wounded son home from a war Longfellow thought should never have been (Click here for a fine article that details the years leading up to Longfellow’s Christmas poem).

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.’

This is where I am often caught, like a spider’s prey, despair creeping up on me while the Spirit within says, Why remain trapped? Believe!

I want to believe! But far too often I am doubting Thomas needing to feel with my fingers the nail-made holes in my Savior’s hands.

I read of Longfellow and wonder what sort of leviathan faith it took to bring forth the next lines…

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.’

Bold proclamation! To look in the face of evil days, standing in faith-filled triumph, and say:

God is not dead, nor doth He sleep!

Today–this Christmas–thousands of soldiers, sailors, and airmen and women look daily in the face of evil. They battle enemies with sand grit in their mouths so we can fill our home with aromas of cinnamon, gingerbread and good cheer.

There is a section of Longfellow’s poem nearly forgotten today. A section that speaks directly to the darkness of war:

Then from each black, accursed mouth
The cannon thundered in the South,
And with the sound the carols drowned
Of peace on earth, goodwill to men.
 
It was as if an earthquake rent
The hearth-stones of a continent,
And made forlorn, the house-holds born
Of peace on earth, goodwill to men.

Here is my desire: that our service men and women would hear the bells louder than the cannon fire. That they would not lose hope, not lose faith, not lose the sort of peace that comes from beyond what this world can offer.

Maybe it is my prayer for us all.

“Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.” –Jesus Christ

Just a note: As we head into our 3rd week of Advent, I feel like I need to make a disclaimer: I know my titles for the candles each week may not match yours. As I was preparing for my advent blogging I found conflicting ideas (Hope, Peace, Joy, Love) for what each of the candles’ titles represent. So, I decided to use the designations offered by the advent devotional I have read to my children these past many years:

             1st week: Prophesy–Hope
             2nd week: Bethlehem–Peace
            3rd week: Shepherds–Joy
            4th week: Angels–Love
 
If these conflict with your candle labeling system, I plead your forgiveness of my greater theological ignorance. 🙂
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