Despair Gives Birth to a Christmas Carol

The beard barely covered the scars on the 57-year-old face, but the heart was still raw.  It was just two years prior when Henry woke up to see his wife aflame and tried to extinguish his wife with a rug and then his own body.  His efforts were futile as his wife died the next day and his face was burnt from the effort.  Now Henry was sitting in a room in Washington D.C. to attend to his son who was recently injured in the war.  The initial news of potential paralysis was grim, but hope would grow.   The son who was so eager to join up with the army was paying the price and the dad shared the cost. The son never asked him until he had left and the recruiter notified him to seek the approval of a father.  Henry gave approval, but how could he approve of this cost?  It seemed the world around him was going to hell, but it was Christmas day.  People were exclaiming to one another “Peace on Earth” and the bells were ringing for Christmas morning.  He believed the message of Christmas, but it sure didn’t feel like anywhere close to peace and justice this morning.  As he stroked his scarred and bearded face, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow gave expression to his dissonance and hope with a poem, you have sung called, “I heard the bells on Christmas Day”.

Pastor Jarrod

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.”

Listen to a version of this song:

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