Jesus is the Light • Devotion #6: “I Heard the Bells On Christmas Day”

“I Heard the Bells On Christmas Day” is based on the poem by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow entitled, “Christmas Bells.” It was in the 1860s and the American Civil War was playing out before his eyes. Longfellow’s oldest son had already been severely injured in the war when he literally heard Church bells ringing on Christmas day.

I heard the bells on Christmas day

Their old familiar carols play;

In music sweet the tones repeat,

“There’s peace on earth, good will to men.”

This sounds so sweet and innocent until I pause and listen as countrymen and even relatives kill each other. Peace and good will to men would not have seemed possible.

I thought how, as the day had come,

The belfries of all Christendom

Had rolled along th’ unbroken song

Of peace on earth, good will to men.

Was Christendom or believers divided on the issues? Could politics cause friction within the body of Christ?

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 feel his pain as he searches for hope. The actions of the world seem to speak hatred and mock the concept of peace and caring about others above ourselves.

Then pealed the bells more loud and deep:

“God is not dead, nor does He sleep,

For Christ is here; His Spirit near

Brings peace on earth, good will to men.”

This is fabulous. He listens as the bells ring louder on his heart and mind reminding him that God is alive and awake. God is still in control. He is present.

When men repent and turn from sin

The Prince of Peace then enters in,

And grace imparts within their hearts

His peace on earth, good will to men.

I appreciate how he calls for our lives to be changed. We need to repent from our ways and turn toward the Prince of Peace. The last two verses end up talking about the Word of God bringing light and life as both also end with the concept of “peace on earth, good will to men.”

As I let these seven verses sink in, I realized that he used the word peace nine times. As the war continued to create losses, he mentioned what we and every beauty pageant desires, “World Peace.”

However, more important than world peace is to be at peace with God. Romans 5:1 says, “Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.” Peace with God only comes through the Lord Jesus Christ.

Once we have peace with God, we can also enjoy the peace of God. Philippians 4:7 adds, “And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”

Peace with God and the peace of God is what can bring “peace on earth, good will to men.”

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