December 1, 2021 @ 8:00 AM

On Christmas morning in 1863 Henry Wadsworth Longfellow sat at the bedside of his son Charlie in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Charlie, a young lieutenant in the Union Army, had been seriously injured in a battle during the Civil War. As a writer, Longfellow did the only thing he knew to do at such a time of personal and national despair. He began writing a poem which would be later set to music. Longfellow wrote the words of the famous Christmas Carol, “I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day.” The irony of that moment was striking. The sound of the happy and beautiful Christmas bells was in direct contrast to the pain and misery of his wounded son and the tragedy of an ugly war between the states. The young men of the North fighting against the young men of the South. Brother against brother. The scene was all wrong. It made no sense. How could this be happening?

Longfellow was still grieving the loss of his wife who had died three years earlier in a fire. Her dress caught fire as she lit candles in their home. He had also been severely burned as he tried to rescue her. He was dealing with grief upon grief. He did, indeed, bow his head in deep despair. He grieved the death of his wife, the potential death of his nation, and the paralysis of his son. But as he continued to listen to the Christmas bells at the church, his spirit lifted with hope. He wrote:

Then rang 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.

Notice that his hope is focused upon God and the reality that God is in control. Wrong will fail and right will prevail. What a blessed hope! Notice too that the times we are living in now are similar. Despair is at an all-time high. Many people have lost loved ones due to the two years of pandemic illness, experimental vaccine side effects, and lawlessness across our nation. Internal political strife has again turned Americans against each other. We are in another Civil War. The previous civil war was a war between the states. The current civil war is between good vs. evil. Good people turn towards God during difficult times. Evil ones turn away from God. They deny and blame Him. They are intent on cancelling Him. Yet our only hope is to call upon Him and humble ourselves before Him. “Blessed is the nation whose God is the Lord.” (Psalm 33:12) America needs revival. We need to reinstate God as ultimate Leader of our nation.

“I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day” is very appropriate for Christmas Day 2021. When you hear Christmas bells this year, be hopeful. We can have hope because of Jesus. He is the Reason for the season.

Below are the words of the song. Stanzas 4 and 5, though typically omitted, were valuable then as now.

    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!

    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!

    Then from each black, accursed mouth
    The cannon thundered in the South,
        And with the sound
        The carols drowned
    Of peace on earth, good-will to men!

    It was as if an earthquake rent
    The hearth-stones of a continent,
        And made forlorn
        The households born
    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."



Source: The True Story of Pain and Hope Behind “I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day,” by Justin Taylor,