Peace on Earth, Good Will to Men

In all of the hustle and bustle of the holidays, peace and good will often get lost. Shopping, cooking and baking, Christmas programs for grandchildren, decorating, sending out holiday cards and packages so they can arrive on time….The list of activities seems endless. Can we even begin to talk about peace on earth?

And when we look at what’s going on in the world, peace seems like an unfulfilled item on our wish list, like an item that’s at least on back order or, worse, out of stock and can’t be added to our shopping cart.  A terrorist driving a truck through a crowded Christmas mall in Germany.  Bombings in Iraq, Afghanistan and Turkey during the past week that didn’t even make the newspaper or the television evening news. Where can we find peace in a world like ours?

Allow me to turn to the poet and teacher Henry Wadsworth Longfellow for an answer.  During the dark days of the American Civil War, on Christmas Day 1863, Longfellow penned “I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day.” The poem was set to music in 1872 and has become a carol heard occasionally during the holiday season. I think Longfellow’s words, written when peace was a distant memory for everyone living in our country, can bring us a lesson in peace for our time.

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!”

May your holiday season be one of peace and love.