Sunday, December 10, 2017


            Ah! Christmas! It’s a magical time when lights and decorations turn the common into breathtaking displays. Hearts are more open to give.  Family and friends come together to celebrate, and music envelops us with the sweet melodies of Christmas. But the true message of Christmas is that which speaks of Jesus’ birth, and of “peace on earth, good will to men.”
            “Peace on earth.”  Those simple words of hope seem to be a stark contrast to the turmoil, hatred and rebellion prevalent in our world today.  Even our Christmas cheer cannot block out the reality of evil and turmoil all around us.  How can we reconcile such disharmony with the message God sent us?  How can the two fit together?        
            Henry Wadsworth Longfellow was also conflicted with the seeming inconsistency of peace in such a troubled world.  He had felt the knife of sorrow cut through his heart when his wife of 18 years died in a fire.  Shortly thereafter, his son Charles joined the Union Army during the Civil War without his father’s blessing.  Charles was soon promoted to Lieutenant and was severely wounded in the Battle of New Hope Church in Virginia.  His recovery was long and his days as a soldier ended.
            Longfellow had experienced death, heartache and war up close. He could not deny their existence. On Christmas Day in 1863, he wrote a poem called “Christmas Bells.”  It reveals his struggle with the idea of “peace on earth, good-will to men.” We know his poem better as the song “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!

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!”

            Yes. That is the message of peace and good will God echoed throughout the world that first Christmas night.  He reached down into a sin-cursed world that was in chaos, and He joyously, boldly spoke of peace.  Peace that would once again join us together with Him. God’s peace is not a temporary peace that is frail and can be easily shattered by circumstances.  It is an enduring, consistent peace that remains intact within us regardless of circumstances.  It is a union of our hearts with God’s heart.  Peace with God is the longing of every soul whether we realize it or not.  And God made it possible.  His peace is the most beautiful, lasting peace we could ever possess.  Nothing can take it from us, because it lies within us. 
            The bells rang out ‘wild and sweet’as a reminder of the angels’ vibrant message to us on that first Christmas when they announced the birth of God’s Son, Emmanuel, God with us, our Savior, Messiah, Lord and King.  All seemed right with the world that night in Bethlehem.

“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!”

            Longfellow knew well the pain and turmoil that still remained in the world.  We know it, too.  We see it on a daily basis and groan under the effects of this sin-sick society.  Jesus knows it, too.  He knows the pull of this world against His peace.  His invitation for us is to persevere through the trials of this world with His peace in our hearts.  It is born of and increased through our connection to Him.  Jesus said, “These things I have spoken unto you, that in me ye might have peace. In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world.”  His peace doesn’t necessarily remove the turmoil of the world, but the turmoil in our hearts.  It allows us to live on a higher plane in the midst of chaos.

“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!”

            Somehow, the message of the bells, the message of the angels, was more persistent, more prevalent, more compelling than the chaos around them.  The message of peace, even in its tranquility and stillness was louder.  It rose up and prevailed against everything evil, everything that would try to silence it.  Peace may be resisted, but it cannot be vanquished or conquered.  The peace Jesus promised rises up in the middle of turmoil and dispels it.  It persists and prevails over every wrong. It is not fragile, but is a strong, indomitable peace.  It proves the good will God has toward us in spite of our defiance of Him.
            Jesus said,Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.”  Receive that peace.  Jesus offers it freely to us that it may be alive within us here and now.  And at the end of this world’s order, peace will reign uncontested in a new heaven and earth.  All sin, fear, disease and evil with be annihilated.  There will be no more chaos, no more hatred, no more rebellion, no more tribulation.  Finally peace will reign within and without.
The message of Christmas remains as true now as it ever was.

“The Wrong shall fail, The Right prevail,

With peace on earth, good-will to men!”