In 2020, There’s No Doubt: We Need the Hope of Christmas

In 2020, There’s No Doubt: We Need the Hope of Christmas By  for Faith Wire

Christmas is the compass in a world of wanderers searching for hope.

One cold December day in 1863, when the country was reeling from the deep-seated divisions of the Civil War, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow received a telegram: the son of the great 19th century poet had been severely injured by a gunshot wound that nicked his spine and nearly left him paralyzed.

It was in that sorrow — a despair with which only a parent could relate — that the widowed father penned the poem we now know as “I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day.” The composition, which has since been transformed into one of our most beloved Christmas carols, gave words to the dissonance Longfellow felt between the hallmarks of the holiday season and the desperation consuming his every moment.

Longfellow wrote:

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!

[…]

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.”

While Longfellow’s world was much different from the one in which we find ourselves today, the dissonance between the joys of Christmas and the hopelessness of 2020 offers a fresh perspective to his poignant words of old.

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