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It’s Christmastime. What is your favourite Christmas carol?

A Christmas Day Story

I shared this story more than once in Christmas messages and talks at the Singing Christmas Tree.

It was the long, cold winter of 1863. The war between the states raged mercilessly. Antietam. Vicksburg. Gettysburg. Chickamauga. Sons, fathers, and brothers from Mississippi to Maine had not come home for Christmas and many would never return.

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow sat in Cambridge, MA pondering the state of the world around him. Longfellow had been widowed for two years since his wife’s dress tragically caught fire. And his 18-year old son Charles was seriously wounded having been injured on December 1, 1863 by a Confederate bullet at the battle of New Hope Church.

Christmas Bells

As he sat listening to the church bells pealing forth Christmas tidings he struggled with the message of the angels proclaiming peace on earth, goodwill towards men. And he took up his pen and wrote “I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day.”

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!

Longfellow followed with these dark verses:

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!”

Hope

But Longfellow knows about the resurrection. He knows how the biblical story truly ends, and his magnificent poem ends with an expression of eternal hope:

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.”

The Bible speaks often of God’s prevailing justice in earthly matters. Psalm 37, for example, admonishes believers not to lose hope in the face of adversity: “But the meek shall inherit the earth; and shall delight themselves in the abundance of peace” (Ps. 37:1–2,11, KJV).

Isaiah 9:6,7 –  “For to us a child is born,
to us a son is given,
and the government will be on his shoulders.
And he will be called
Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
Of the greatness of his government and peace
there will be no end.
He will reign on David’s throne
and over his kingdom,
establishing and upholding it
with justice and righteousness
from that time on and forever.”

Hear a version of the song below.

What is your favourite Christmas carol? Please leave a comment below.

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Bob Jones

Happily married to Jocelyn for 43 years. We have two adult sons, Cory and his wife Lynsey and their son Vinnie and daughter Jayda; Jean Marc and his wife Angie and their three daughters, Quinn, Lena and Annora. I love inspiring people through communicating, blogging, and coaching. I enjoy writing, running, and reading. I'm a fan of the Double E, Bruins, Celtics, Red Sox and Pats. Follow me on Twitter @bobjones49ers

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