We finished up our church Christmas program today. Musically, we kept it pretty traditional. We found new arrangements for carols and put them into the program. My sister-in-law brought this one forth beautifully .
This is one of Jonathon’s favorite carols. I’d never given it much attention. In fact, I considered it kind of…fusty. Until now.
I heard the bells on Christmas Day…
Did you know who wrote this carol? Do you know its history? The poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow wrote it. His son, Charles, joined the Union army to fight in the Civil War against Henry’s wishes in March 1863. Charles wrote him a letter in which he said, “I feel it to be my first duty to do what I can for my country and I would willingly lay down my life for it if it would be of any good”.
Till ringing, singing on its way/The world revolved from night to day…
Charles, severely wounded in the Mine Run Campaign (thank you Wikipedia), convalesced at home. An accidental fire arose soon after, killing Henry’s wife. He wrote the poem in Christmas 1863.
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!”
I can only imagine the depths of Mr. Longfellow’s despair. I’m not sure I would handle that well. My boy, home from a war that tore the country apart and souls asunder. My life’s companion, gone on to the next life.
Then pealed the bells more loud and deep/”God is not dead, and not asleep
The Wrong shall fail/The Right prevail/With peace on earth, good-will to men.”
I thought of this as I sat on stage this morning and mulled over this song while our excellent group played and sang. I considered all the violent shootings in the news lately. Call them terrorism. Call them acts of war. Call them senseless. I have no better, prettier words.
What I do have is hope. God sees all. He will repay. It’s his job. He’s not dead or asleep, my friends. The bells remind us that Christmas *did* come, and peace on earth is possible because of Jesus.