Jym Shorts

Jym Shorts - October 24, 2019

by Jym Gregory on October 24, 2019

As I continue this short writing series prepping us for our advent series in December (Great Expectations: The Songs of Advent), I turn to an old poem by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow that has become a stalwart of the Christmas carol season in America.


Longfellow was born in Maine in 1807 and died in Massachusetts in 1882.  He was a beloved writer/poet in both America and Europe.  Two years following his death he was honored with a memorial bust in the famed “Poet’s Corner” in England’s Westminster Abbey.  If you are not overly familiar with Longfellow, you probably know some of his writings (or parts of them) by default.  He is most famous for his poem Paul Revere’s Midnight Ride.  “Listen my friend, and you shall hear, of the midnight ride of Paul Revere…”  Remember that one, or parts of it?  “One if by land, and two if by sea.”  It is one of the most famous poems in American literature.  But Longfellow also wrote sacred poems, and one of his best, and my favorite, is also a classic Christmas Carol.  Here it is:


Christmas Bellsby Henry Wadsworth Longfellow


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!

And thought how, as the day had come
The belfries of all Christendom
Had rolled along
The unbroken song
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!

Till 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!


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."


Longfellow wrote this beautiful, haunting poem on Christmas Day, 1863, in the midst of the American Civil War.  His son, a Union Lieutenant, had just returned from the war having suffered a life-altering wound.  In 1872 the poem was set to music, and the rest is history.


I love this poem because there is great truth in it, as there should be in all poems.  God is not dead, nor is he sleeping.  Our redemption draws nigh, the Scriptures affirm, and Jesus did come to set things right. As the apostle Peter reminds us: Though now, for a little while, we may have had to suffer grief in many trials, these have come so that our faith, of greater worth than gold, which perishes though refined by fire, may be proved genuine and may result in praise, glory, and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed. This is great hope, even in the midst of what can be, at times for all, and most of the time for some, a dark life.  Fear not friends, in this world we will have trouble, but be of good cheer, Jesus has overcome the world! 


Grace and peace,

Pastor Jym

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