Meditating on Peace: December 19

By Becky Ahlberg

Saturday, December 19

One of my favorite carols is “I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day” by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow. He wrote it on December 25, 1864, while in despair at the horrible cost of the Civil War. He had recently lost his wife and as he nursed his severely injured soldier son, Christmas brought a unique kind of misery that year. He did not know that Gen. Robert E. Lee’s surrender at Appomattox Court House was just a few months away. The despair of war was rife across the country.

12_Devotions15These are three of the poignant stanzas he wrote that day. Don’t just read the words; listen to a version on (I’ve listed a few suggestions beneath the poetry excerpt).

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 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.”
—Henry W. Longfellow, 1864

Check out these YouTube versions of “I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day”:

•  Casting Crowns,

• Gaither Vocal Band,

• Choral arrangement with slides from the Civil War,

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