And the Bells They’re Ringing…

The holidays are not an easy time for many. Infused with emotions, they can make despair even more poignant and any expression of love feel cold and superficial. And, so it was for Henry Wadsworth Longfellow on Christmas Day 1863. His country was embroiled in a war he hated. His son had returned home with severe wounds. His beloved wife had died after a freak accident in their home two years before and he was sorely missing her. In his sadness he had written, “How inexpressibly sad are all holidays. I can make no record of these days. Better to leave them wrapped in silence. Perhaps someday God will give me peace.”

But, on this Christmas Day, with the Civil War still raging, he wrote a poem called “Christmas Bells” which would become the beloved Christmas carol, “I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day.” In the first part of the poem, he unabashedly records his despair:

I heard the bells on Christmas day.

Their old familiar carols play.

And wild and sweet their songs repeat

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.

Have there not been Christmases when we have felt the same? Have there not been times when those bells we heard rang empty, not true? But, toward the end of the poem, something happens for Longfellow. Let’s listen:

Then rang the bells more loud and deep.

God is not dead nor does He sleep.

The wrong shall fail. The right prevail.

Peace on earth good will to men.


Then ringing singing on His way.

The world revolves from night to day.

A voice, a chime, a chance of life

of peace on earth good will to men.

Somehow those bells rang more loud and deep and he remembered that God is not dead. No, indeed, for to know God is to know life! And, God does not sleep. Indeed not, for in each moment He is guiding, honing, sounding, walking, shaping us in, around, and through our very breath. And, suddenly, a remembrance, and a peace not-known-before bathes away despair leaving only the sound of those bells echoing through the chambers of his heart. And, Jesus’ words in John 4: 27 now rang true, “Peace I leave with you. My peace I give to you: not as the world gives, I give to you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.”

And, suddenly, we too hear the bells…as Casting Crowns’ version of this carol sings…

And the bells they’re ringing…Peace on Earth

Like a choir they’re singing…Peace on Earth

And in our hearts we’ll hear them…Peace on Earth

Good will to men


Do you hear the bells they’re ringing?

Peace on Earth

Like the angels singing

Peace on Earth

Open up your heart and hear them

Peace on Earth…Good will to men

In our Christmas worship, we gathered and sang out with full voice and unleashed emotion Peace on Earth…for we heard the bells a’ ringing…Peace on Earth…and we sang like angels singing…Peace on Earth…! And, as I looked out I knew there were some of us who were facing deeply challenging times and still…we stood and held together and with open hearts we sang out…Peace on Earth…!

 And, in that moment, I knew there was nothing we could not do – together…

So now, with those bells still a’ ringing, echoing through the chambers of our collective heart, I pray we too will hear those bells on Christmas Day…and every day…

Ringing out…Peace on Earth…Good will to men…

 A Blessed Merry Christmas Everyone!


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2 responses to “And the Bells They’re Ringing…

  1. Linda

    Peace and Joy as we respond to the sound of the bells calling us…..

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