Peace on Earth

Peace on Earth
Christmas Bells
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.”
(Henry Wadsworth Longfellow (1807-1882)

This month every time I put my mind to thinking about peace, this song came into my head. This morning I woke to the news that students are protesting at college campuses, Paris had a massive terrorist attack, and El Niño is threatening areas in the world with severe weather. Peace seems to have gone on vacation.

This is not one of my favorite Christmas hymns. I’ve always thought of it as a bit of a downer to the Christmas spirit. But it is raw and it is honest. Longfellow wrote this poem towards the end of the American Civil war, when all were weary and in despair over the horror of that time. He had just learned of his oldest son’s severe injuries from one of the battles. For Longfellow, as with us today, there is no peace on earth, because hate is strong and does seem to mock all those who earnestly seek peace on earth.

Honestly, I don’t think there can ever be peace in this present world. I know many will disagree with me. But there will always be pride, lust, and greed to bring about war, as long as we dwell in these earthly bodies. Peace is far from the thoughts of those who fear the loss of power, right, and influence. I do not exclude myself. My lack of peace is often due to my own fears.

Yet, I believe in peace. Throughout the scriptures peace is offered as a gift by God. It is one of the fruits of the Spirit. This peace seems to be an inward sense of rightness, confidence, and safety, despite the outward circumstances. When I read the lives of the saints and martyrs, there is a common thread of perspective within each of them. They know a peace that is beyond understanding. Peace to sing before eaten by lions; peace to see the throne of God before being stoned; peace to be crucified upside down lest he take any honor from Jesus.

Peace does not seem elusive to them. Peace seems tangible, available, present.

Mr. Longfellow did not allow us to wallow in the depths of despair. He ended his poem with hope. God is not dead. He is alive and awake despite His seemingly silent presence. Someday, He promises, there will be a new world. A world where right and wrong will take their places in fair justice. In that world:

He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away. ~ Revelation 21:4

Jesus came to bring this kind of peace. His offer of peace was not without a cost, but it was a gift given in the act of love. He gives His peace to all who seek it. All we need to do is ask Him for His peace.

Now may the Lord of peace himself give you peace at all times and in every way. The Lord be with all of you.
~ 2 Thessalonians 3:16

Merry Christmas!

Grace & Such strives to advance Christian growth among women. While we believe the Bible is the inspired Word of God, we also recognize human interpretations are imperfect. Grace & Such encourages our readers to open their Bibles, pray for wisdom and study for themselves what the Word says. For more about who we are, please visit the About Us page.
Rebecca Montie Preston
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Rebecca Montie Preston

Becky is a Spiritual Director from southeastern Pennsylvania.Her other roles include wife, mother of two, and grandmother of six.She has her MA from Biblical Theological Seminary, and studied at Renovare Institute for Spiritual Formation and Kairos School for Spiritual Direction.
Rebecca Montie Preston
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3 thoughts on “Peace on Earth

  1. Diane

    So many rich thoughts in this one. Peace is such a misunderstood word – so close personally, so far away as a world! “Peace does not seem elusive to them. Peace seems tangible, available, present.” I agree.

    Reply

  2. Gretchen

    Peace be with you, as well, Becky. So well written. So timely. I guess nothing really changes, does it? So excited for Heaven.

    Reply

  3. Jen

    If only people (sometimes myself) would realize that the external goings on don’t preclude us from internal peace. Thanks, Becky.

    Reply

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