Last Friday, when my post went live, I had no idea what would happen just moments later. I wrote a post wrestling with my personal struggle of sharing my good news while knowing others are suffering. And then, as the news unfolded of the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary, I could not help but mourn for those parents who had lost children in this horrific tragedy. I kept putting myself in the shoes of those parents rushing to the school, frantically calling out the name of their child, but receiving no response. My heart is broken. Worst of all, this has happened at Christmas, a time when we are celebrating joy, peace, and the light entering the darkness.

church bells

In all this, my mind has been drawn to one of my favorite Christmas carols, “I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day.” I love the story behind this song. Written on Christmas day during the Civil War, it was the author’s observation of the devastation and brokenness of man that surrounded him. On Christmas, the fighting stopped for one day, to celebrate peace on earth. Yet the hatred and war continued.

I’ve included below the lyrics of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, who penned these words in 1863[1]. I’ve bolded the last two stanzas as they have especially spoken to me over the weekend. The second to last stanza is one of complete and utter desperation but the final stanza is one of victory.

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.

Then from each black, accursed mouth
The cannon thundered in the South,
And with the sound
The carols drowned
Of peace on earth, good-will to men.

It was as if an earthquake rent
The hearth-stones of a continent,
And made forlorn
The households born
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 the earth, good-will to men.”

And this is my all-time favorite version of this particular song.