Words of Hope: “I Heard The Bells on Christmas Day”

This old hymn brings hope into despair. The words were written in 1864 on Christmas day by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow after his wife, Fanny, had tragically died in a fire and his oldest son, Charles, was severely wounded in the Civil War. It was slightly rearranged and set to music by John Baptiste Calkin in 1872. Hear these words when you feel “hate is strong and mocks the song of peace on earth, good-will to men.” Originally a seven-stanza poem titled Christmas Bells, here are the initial words of Longfellow’s poem. Read these words and inhale grace and exhale gratitude.

“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!’”

Author: Randy J. Gauger

Christ-follower, husband of Mary for 52 years, father, grandfather, great-grandfather, writer, preacher, ordained American Baptist Pastor, retired.

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