At the height of the Civil War in 1863, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow celebrated Christmas Day—alone. Longfellow had recently received news that his son, Charley, had been wounded on the battlefield. Two years earlier his wife had tragically died in a horrific fire that left him scarred for life.
With church bells pealing in the background, Longfellow penned the poem that would endure as the familiar Christmas carol, “I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day.”
At the heart of the lyrics, he incorporated the refrain of the angelic host announcing Jesus Christ’s birth:
“Glory to God in the highest,
And on earth peace, goodwill toward men!”
I HEARD THE BELLS . . . IN MERRY OLD ENGLAND
It was a bitterly cold winter’s night and the relentless drizzle had turned into large white snowflakes that carpeted the ground with more than an inch of mushy snow. Though I repeatedly verbalized my skepticism, my parents had planned an evening so that three younger siblings could visit Father Christmas at famed Marks and Spencer’s in Eastbourne, UK.
Waiting to cross Terminus Road, we listened to the words of Longfellow’s carol as the Salvation Army choir sang in perfect harmony:
“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.
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.”
Then, the traffic light changed and we began crossing the street. Before the din of the city had completely drowned out the sound of their voices, I heard:
“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.”
LONGFELLOW ON INEQUITY IN THE WORLD
Drowned out by the noise of the city on the sidewalk, I missed the next stanza as we entered the store. It would take several more years to discover what Longfellow had learned through personal adversity:
“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.”
God is not detached from creation or surprised by current events. The entirety of Scripture presents God’s intimate involvement in human affairs.
God is not bound by time and space. He is eternal and omniscient. Transcending the space-time continuum, God has planned every date of history and knows what He has purposed for each nanosecond. He knows how all circumstances of each individual life and the combined developments of history mesh to accomplish His will and purpose.
God is so awesome and mighty that He even uses what is intended for evil to accomplish what is ultimately good in order to implement His overarching plan and purpose for creation (Rm. 8:28; Eph. 1:11).
God knows about the chaotic reverberations in the world. Many Bible passages remind that God not is not only aware, but sees and hears what transpires in our experience (Ps. 34:15-17cf. 2 Chron. 16:9; Prov. 15:3; 1 Pet. 3:12).
This is no time for people of faith to succumb to disillusionment. That wrong will fail and right prevail is prophesied from cover to cover in God’s Word. Use the Christmas season to share the message of peace and goodwill with everyone you encounter.
1) The Bells of Christmas. (Photos used for illustrative purposes) (Photo credit: All images, Pixabay/[Public domain]/Digital composition, MKM Portfolios)
Copyright © 2016 Charles E. McCracken, devotional comments only. Repost/Reprint with permission from the author. Scripture taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
Charles E. McCracken is an international Bible teacher, long-time friend of Israel and advocate for the Jewish people. Rev. McCracken authentically communicates biblical truth making his presentations relevant for those seeking to understand the significance of Israel and the church in Bible prophecy. He staunchly supports the nation of Israel and the Jewish people’s right to exist and live in peace.