God Is Not Dead, Nor Doth He Sleep

il_340x270.693207497_ajgiI 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.

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.”

Words by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, 1864
Music by John B. Calkin, 1872

 


And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.” Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying,
“Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.”
Luke 2:8 – 14

Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ,
Romans 5:1

The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.
2 Peter 3:9

I have come into the world as a light, so that no one who believes in me should stay in darkness.
John 12:46


 

It’s been 2000 years since the Angels declared in Luke 2:14, “Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.” Yes they declares peace on earth, yet when we look around it can be hard to remember this. Fighting continues around the world. People killing each other over meaningless things. Where is the peace on earth.

This is what went through the head of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow on Christmas 1863. Two years earlier he had lost his wife in a tragic fire in which he was seriously injured trying to save her. Now he found himself in Washington DC to see his oldest son who had been seriously wounded, possibly paralyzed in the civil war. And the war raged on, just a few months earlier more than 45,000 soldiers had died at the battle of Gettysburg.

It was truly a dark time as a nation and for Longfellow personally. It is in this darkness that he penned the words to the Christmas hymn, “I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day.”

As was often the custom in days past, and still in many places, all the churches would ring their bells on Christmas morning. A beautiful musical reminder echoing throughout the skies of the joyous news that the Angels had declared that first Christmas, “I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. . . . Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying,
“Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.” (Luke 2:10 – 11, 13 – 14)

If only for a brief moment, we are reminded that there is hope. Jesus said in John 12:46, “I have come into the world as a light, so that no one who believes in me should stay in darkness.” Christ had come into the world to bring light peace to all mankind. But this peace is not first between men, but between God and man. This is why Christ was born. For as Romans 5:1 tells us, “Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.”

Yet Longfellow can not escape the pain of the darkness that seems to surrounds him. A truth found in John 3:19 where we read, “Light has come into the world, but people loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil.” So he writes, “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.’”

Christ came that we might have peace with God and bring peace on earth. This peace on earth is a peace that can only when we set aside petty difference and focus on the reason for Christ birth, peace with God. A message that rings from “the belfries of all Christendom.”

And so, Longfellow is reminded that there is still hope. While there are still problems that seem to flow throughout the world God is faithful to His promises. And while they may not happen in our time, He will not fail. Just as 2 Peter 3:9 tells us, “The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.”

Yes, darkness does still exist in this world, but through the gift of Christ light has come. There is hope in the darkness. A hope that rings forth with the bells on Christmas morning. No “God is not dead, nor doth He sleep; The wrong shall fail, the right prevail With peace on earth, good will to men.”

 

 

Read more about “I Heard The Bells On Christmas Morn.

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