Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Peace on Earth?

I know this is probably a bit late, but I wanna talk about Christmas. Yeah, I know the holiday is over, but I heard this in a Christmas day sermon, and it impacted me in a deep way.

There's a song called "I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day." I used to think it was an original song by Casting Crowns, but apparently this song goes way back. It was originally written as a poem by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, who was quoted as saying, "How inexpressibly sad are all holidays," and, "'A merry Christmas' say the children, but that is no more for me."

So what's the deal? Why would someone who doesn't find joy in the holidays write a song about Christmas? Well, if you take a close look at the lyrics, you would understand. The song is all about the fact that the writer doesn't understand why everyone's talking about "peace on earth" and "good will to men" when there is so much pain in this world. The song quotes:

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."

The background to the song sheds light on the bitter words that Longfellow penned: composed in 1864, a few months before the Civil War ended, Longfellow wrote amidst the emotional turmoil of the death of his wife, Fanny, who was burned to death in an tragic accident. In this accident, she caught fire from candle wax, and died the day after receiving her burns, despite Henry's best efforts to put out his wife's flaming body. To top off this pain, he learned that his son was shot underneath the shoulder blade - a wound which would force Henry to take his son into bed-ridden care.

After unsuccessfully dealing with the hurt surrounding his circumstances, Longfellow came to a turning point 3 years after his wife's death, and on Christmas Day of 1864, he penned the words to this poem, which rebuts his previous bitterness with a resounding victory:

"God is not dead, nor does He sleep.
The wrong shall fail, the right prevail
With peace on earth; good will to men."

So, in this Christmas season, filled with all of the fakeness and hypocrisy that surrounds it, don't be fooled into thinking that your hurts and distresses should just be filed away with a big smile to show to the world. For all those who deal with suffering, especially during this season, I'd just like to encourage you with this: God is not dead, nor does He sleep. He sees you, and knows you're hurting. So, reach out to Him, and be comforted by a Saviour who is well acquainted with sorrows. (Isaiah 53)


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