I Heard the Bells
weekly devotions to refresh your soul by Dr. Dan Bolin - December 13, 2022
For many, painful memories suffocate Christmas joy. Loss, abandonment, or worries dominate what should be a time of celebration and delight.
Christmas 1863 found American poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow in grief-stricken depression. Two years earlier, his wife and mother of their five surviving children died in a tragic fire. His oldest son, severely wounded in the American Civil War, lay at home, fighting for his life.
In the depths of despair, Longfellow heard church bells and began to do what he did best: he started writing. The resulting poem later became the Christmas carol, I Heard the Bells.
One stanza rarely sung goes:
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!”
Mercifully, the poem continues:
Then peels 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.”
This Christmas, hear the bells, loud and deep, God is not dead, nor doth he sleep.
Like Jeremiah who, at the midpoint of Lamentations’ five chapters of despair, heard the bells and wrote, “Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is thy faithfulness.” (Lamentations 3:22-23)
Author & President
Refueling in Flight Ministries, Inc.
Listen to I Heard the Bells (with Casting Crowns)
Original Lyrics by Henry W. Longfellow
I heard the bells on Christmas day Their old familiar carols play, And wild and sweet the words repeat Of peace of earth, good will to men.
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.
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."
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.