Where is Peace?
By 1863, it had been several years since Henry Wadsworth Longfellow had written any poetry. They had been difficult years. After losing his wife in a tragic fire he fell into a dark depression. Next, his eldest son, Charley, snuck off to join the Union Army and within a year was injured and sent to a hospital in Virginia.
For three troublesome days Henry searched the incoming wounded until at last he found his son — alive, but barely breathing. Christmas Day found Charley still with fever and an uncertain prognosis. Torn and broken by war and loss Longfellow at last picked up quill and wrote… .
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.”
This world is a world of many miseries, but the Christian’s hope is in that homeland yet to appear, that eternal city from which all crying and mourning flee away. “In this world you will have trouble,” said the Saviour. “But take heart! I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33).
Charley did recover, and happier days returned to the Longfellows. But the words penned during that trying Christmas of war and uncertainty continue today as “I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day,” a hymn of hope… of peace in Christ… and of blessing to all who turn to Him.
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