I left the surgery center and sat silently in my car. I wondered if anyone else wanted the world to slow down for just a little while . . . if anyone else wanted to receive some patience and peace—not for long but long enough to sigh or maybe cry; and after the tears to see a dot of light at the end of the dark, crooked tunnel of the present moment.
As I turned on my car, the CD began to play, picking up where it had stopped six hours earlier. I listened to the same song all the way home. It resonated with the day, the longing for peace and patience and some space to breathe again.
Perhaps the writer had wished for the same—time to sigh and cry and see a ray of hope through the dark, crooked tunnel he was in. Life had been hard and harsh; Henry Wadsworth Longfellow had all the things money could buy, but it was peace he wanted most. He had lost his beloved second wife and was raising their six children alone. And one of his sons had departed home without his blessing to fight in the Civil War. Shortly thereafter, he received word that his son had been gravely wounded in battle. Henry went to pick him up and bring him home.
Longfellow’s tunnel wasn’t only crooked, it was beyond straightening—a tension not limited to the desires and hopes that Christmas inspires. But since he penned the words expressing deep pain in his soul on Christmas day in 1884, his poem titled “Christmas Bells” has been altered into a song, “I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day,” rarely played any other time of year.
A Song of Hope
That day, I played it over and over. Its deeply consoling words helped me breathe through the afternoon. I hope you find these words comforting as well.
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.
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 doth He sleep;
The wrong shall fail, the right prevail,
With peace on earth, good will to men.”
Then 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!1Henry W. Longfellow, “I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day,” in The Celebration Hymnal: Songs and Hymns for Worship (Nashville: Word/Integrity, 1997), hymn 267.
Psalm 42 has the same bittersweet cry for hope. Verse 4 says “My heart is breaking as I remember how it used to be” (NLT). How we long for happier times when our road becomes crooked. This is the cornerstone of faith: choosing to see God in the darkest times and placing our hope in Him. Longfellow wrote, “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.’” The psalmist was no different. “Why am I discouraged? Why is my heart so sad? I will put my hope in God! I will praise him again—my Savior and my God!” (Psalm 42:5–6 NLT, emphasis added).
Let Me Hear from You
Is there peace in your life right now? Are you wishing the world would slow down a bit or be patient with you as you wade through tough times? Is your faith being tested? I understand all of that . . . the sorrow, the questions, the bewilderment. Perhaps you need to talk through some of that this week. I would love to read what your soul is longing for and then provide some dot of hope . . . a small but strong starlike ray of light at the end of your tunnel. There is one, but it may take reaching out to find it. My hand is open.
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|↑1||Henry W. Longfellow, “I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day,” in The Celebration Hymnal: Songs and Hymns for Worship (Nashville: Word/Integrity, 1997), hymn 267.|