For our Advent devotionals we are looking deeper at some of our favorite carols.
Today’s Scripture: Micha 5:2,5
But you, O Bethlehem Ephrathah,
are only a small village among all the people of Judah.
Yet a ruler of Israel,
whose origins are in the distant past,
will come from you on my behalf.
And he will be the source of peace.
Today’s Carol: I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day
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.
I 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.
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.
So many of the carols we have looked at this Advent season have seemed to speak to our current situation, this carol is no exception. The words are from a poem written by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow during the height of the Civil War. The whole carol tells a story.
It starts with the author hearing church bells ring out on Christmas day, playing familiar sweet carols of peace on earth, good will to men (Luke 2 – King James Version).
The author then reminisces about how bells all over the world have been ringing for centuries and telling the story of peace on earth.
But things take a turn in verse three. “There is no peace on earth,” the author writes. Instead, there is hate and war and the Christmas bells mock the song of the angels about peace on earth.
But listening to the bells – hearing their peals “loud and deep” – reminded him that even though things were hard and there was no peace, “God is not dead, nor doth He sleep.” In the end the wrong will fail, the right will prevail, and peace – God’s peace – will come to the earth once more.
I needed to hear this carol today. It can be so easy to despair about the state of the world and the state of our own lives that Christmas – with it’s songs of peace and goodwill – can seem mocking. If there is any year to let cynicism rule it’s this year! But this carol reminds us that in the end God’s peace will come. The carols we sing are not mocking peace – they are encouraging us to keep looking for the coming of the Christ child.
God we admit to you that some days are hard. And some days we start to wonder where you are in all of the pain and sorrow. And yet Advent reminds us that you have not gone anywhere. Advent reminds us that you have chosen to be with us in the midst of struggle. Help us to feel your presence in these days.