Holy in the Daily

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What the Bells of Christmas Really Ring

Mission San Miguel bells by Will Barrow for post at Holy in the Daily

In 1861 the Civil War broke out. It was this same year that Fanny, the wife of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, died in a tragic fire. Two years later, Longfellow’s son was seriously wounded in the Army of the Potomac.

It has been said that music holds no depth unless the writer has been broken deep within. Truth and hope bloom when deep calls to deep in the hearts of those who sing such words or hear them.

It was from this place of deep pain that on a Christmas day Longfellow heard the church bells ringing. Sitting down at his desk he wrote these words:

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 household 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 earth, good will to men!”

Longfellow experienced the devastation of his family and a nation at war—not so different from much of the world this Christmas day. Yet in the face of such realities we still celebrate Christmas and sing the Christmas carols that continue to bring truth and hope to our world.

I Head the Bells on Christmas Day is one of my favorite Christmas carols causing me to stand up on the inside when the last verse is sung. What Christmas carol brings truth and hope to your heart every time you hear it? Why?

In Him together, Susan Gaddis

P.S. I just have to brag on Willie Barrow. He’s the photographer of the San Miguel Mission bells used in this post. A great friend and YWAM missionary.

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This Post Has 4 Comments

  1. Lilly Green

    May the last verse be our experience always!

  2. moira

    ‘What Child is This’, ‘Hark the Herald Angels Sing’, ‘Mary Did You Know’….and ALL the ones we can sing the descant!!!!!

  3. Kay Swatkowski

    I was not aware of the story behind this carol. Thank you for adding more meaning to my Christmas celebration. I truly love your blog! Not only is it filled with great content…it is so creative in presentation. May you have a joy filled Christmas.

  4. Susan Gaddis

    So glad you like the blog and the post, Kay. Us grandma’s have to stick together. Have a lovely Christmas.

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