When you think of bells at Christmastime, what comes to mind?

Jingle bells?

Sleigh bells?

Church bells?

Hand bells?

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow wrote his poem “I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day” during a time of deep personal and national turmoil. The American Civil War raged, a dark time in our history, and his son lay seriously wounded.

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Here’s a copy of ” I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day from my mother’s old carol book.”

For many years I have sung “I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day” from the church hymnal. And, for a long time, it was on the bottom of my list of favorites. I’m not sure why, except I didn’t understand it’s full message. The third verse in my hymnbook reads,

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.”

Several stanzas of the poem express darkness and despair.

We have been through a year of turmoil: the pandemic, social unrest, and the election. We are a country divided in many ways. The idea of peace and good will appears a forgotten dream.

Is the sound of bells ringing a sound of joy or a sound of sorrow or warning? The tolling of bells evokes danger or sorrow. The pealing of the bells evokes joy and gladness. Sleigh bells give off a merry sound, as do jingle bells.

These sleigh bells belonged to my husband’s grandparents. I love the sound they make.

Longfellow also penned:

Yet 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.”

Hope. In the midst of turmoil, there is hope because God’s not dead. He promises in His Word that when Jesus comes again, He will come to rule as Prince of Peace (Isaiah 9:6).

Jesus’s incarnation at His coming to earth the first time, the reason we celebrate Christmas, made peace with God available through recognizing our sin, believing Jesus gave His life’s blood to pay for that sin, and receiving the gift of salvation from sin. His incarnation demonstrated God’s love and good will for us (John 3:16).

I have come to appreciate Longfellow’s poem, and I enjoy singing “I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day.”

What carol do you enjoy singing or hearing?

Wishing you many blessings this Christmas and hope and joy in the New Year.

Hebrews 12:2 “Looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.” NKJV