Peace is a popular word at Christmas time. We hear it in songs. The theme of one Advent Sunday is peace. Eve the shepherds in the Christmas story heard the angels say, “Peace On Earth”.
It is obvious the shepherds, angels, and everyone else has not lived my life. Who has time for peace? My family has things for me to do. There are special services to rehearse at church and the assisted living facility. Shopping for gifts and food keep me running. We have get togethers with family and friends. Then there was the year my dad decided to become ill during the holidays. Inconveniently, he passed away and really took away from my idea of the perfect, peaceful Christmas season.
The Angels singing, “Peace on Earth”, was an announcement that Jesus was born. Jesus had arrived on earth as the Prince of Peace. The Shepherds did the most beautiful thing. They went to be in the presence of God. God had arrived in the flesh, in a baby, in a stable. In the stable, the shepherds were assured that everything would be o.k. God’s presence was with them. In 1864, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, was feeling the way many of us have felt during the Christmas season. It seemed life had its ups and downs. Longfellow was feeling quite down during the Christmas season.
He was living during the Civil War. His son had been seriously wounded in the war. He was grieving the loss of his wife. Grief is love that has nowhere to go. As a poet, he sat down and composed a poem.
“I heard the bells on Christmas day, their old, familiar carols play; and wild and sweet the words repeat of peace on earth, goodwill 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.’”
We’ve all felt that way. We are down because life isn’t the way we want it to be. Longfellow was a person of faith. He didn’t end his poem with head bowed down. He ended his poem with the peace of God strengthening him during a difficult time.
“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, goodwill to men.’”
Chaplain Jeff Meyers