If you’re not feeling the Christmas spirit this year, no matter the reason, I encourage you to read this poem and consider its writing. Henry Wadsworth Longfellow endured greater tragedy and suffering than many of us will ever know. His wife burned to death and he was seriously injured as he attempted to save her life. His son was seriously injured in the Civil War shortly after running away from home to join the Union Army just two years after his wife’s tragic death. Longfellow went out searching for his son to be at his bedside after being shot in battle and heard the bells ringing on Christmas morning. In his now famous poem “I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day,” he captured the dichotomy between the pain and sorrow of our earthly experience and the angelic proclamation on that first Christmas night, “Peace on Earth and good will to men!”
I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day
I heard the bells on Christmas day
Their old familiar carols play;
In music sweet the tones repeat,
“There’s peace on earth, good will to men.”
I thought how, as the day had come,
The belfries of all Christendom
Had rolled along th’ unbroken song
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 does He sleep,
For Christ is here; His Spirit near
Brings peace on earth, good will to men.”
When men repent and turn from sin
The Prince of Peace then enters in,
And grace imparts within their hearts
His peace on earth, good will to men.
O souls amid earth’s busy strife,
The Word of God is light and life;
Oh, hear His voice, make Him your choice,
Hail peace on earth, good will to men.
Then happy, singing on your way,
Your world will change from night to day;
Your heart will feel the message real,
Of peace on earth, good will to men.
If poetry isn’t your thing, check out Casting Crown perform the poem as a beautiful Christmas song below.
This song has become the theme of my Christmas and easily my favorite song of the season. As I said in my Christmas message yesterday, the most important truth to come out of the Birth of Jesus is Immanuel, “God with us.” God, the Creator of the Universe, the Lord of Lords and King of Kings, humbled himself and entered into our human experience not only to save us but to know us, to experience life as us, to suffer alongside us, and, as the writer of Hebrews declared, “empathize with our weaknesses.”
When Mary and Joseph shared nervous glances each time the unborn Jesus kicked and fluttered in the womb, full of the fear and anxiety every first time parent knows, “God with us.”
When the infant child entered the cold, dark world on Christmas night and let out a scream only the coddling of his mother could soothe, “God with us.”
When the toddling Jesus inevitably stumbled and scraped his knee as he learned to walk, “God with us.”
When Jesus, as a teenager, experienced rejection and judgment from his peers because he had to work to care for his widowed mother, “God with us.”
When Jesus, as an adult, wept at Lazarus’ graveside with his friends Martha and Mary, “God with us.”
When Jesus relied on the goodness of others for his very survival as he declared the Kingdom of God, “God with us.”
When he suffered and died and the crowds cast their ceaseless judgment upon him, “God with us.”
Then, when he walked out of the grave, defeating death, overcoming the curse of sin, and reigning victorious into eternity, “God with us.”
Whatever you’re going through, trust Immanuel, trust the God who is with us, trust the God who entered our world, experienced the pain and the trials of this life so that he could empathize with us no matter what we’re going through. He is Immanuel. He is “God with us.” Merry Christmas, friends!