before Christmas

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.”

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!

* * * * *

I’ve long posted the words from this enduring Christmas hymn, written by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, because it so feels like it puts life in perspective. 

Longfellow was the widowed father of six. His wife died from a tragic accident in which the dress she was wearing caught on fire. His oldest son was severely injured during a battle of the Mine Run Campaign. He was reunited with his injured son on December 5th, with the army surgeon sharing that his son’s wound “was very serious” and that “paralysis might ensue.”

Only 20 days later, on Christmas Day 1863, Longfellow “wrote a poem seeking to capture the dynamic and dissonance in his own heart and the world he observes around him.” Hence, the rest of us were gifted with the embedded wisdom of “I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day.”

Amidst the outer chaos of the culture and the inner chaos in one’s own heart, peace is still available. Hope, too. That hopeful confidence has the power to pierce all chaos. 

That, my friends, puts life in perspective.