Advent Devotional/Playlist · Hymn Devotionals

(Day 4) I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day

Our great American poet, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, wrote the poem that was later put to music and became I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day. I’ve been thinking lately about the temptation to despair that we can all sometimes be faced with during Christmas. Longfellow certainly felt it, as this song attests. The death of a beloved wife, and the concern for a son away at war prompted him to write the verses that refer to the all too familiar, sinking doubt that suffering makes us susceptible to. Can Christmas really be true? Does good prevail?

The world would like to see our confidence in Christ falter. In this season, we must encourage each other with the good news of Christ’s birth. Yes, it’s true that Jesus was born to die. But we must also remember that though he died, his grave could not hold him. What an incredible moment it must have been to realize that Jesus was not in that tomb, because he had risen and walked out! If we trust him, one day Jesus will console our sadness with his physical presence, and wipe away our tears forever. In the person and work of Christ, God has poured out a drenching downpour of peace and goodwill to us that will last for eternity. Lift your heads, brothers and sisters, and take heart. The bells are forever ringing: God is not dead, nor does He sleep!

Make sure to read Longfellow’s full original poem below.

Scriptures to consider:  

I believe that I shall look upon the goodness of the LORD in the land of the living! Wait for the LORD; be strong, and let your heart take courage; wait for the LORD! Psalm 27:13-14

Not to us, O LORD, not to us, but to your name give glory, for the sake of your steadfast love and your faithfulness! Why should the nations say, “Where is their God?” Our God is in the heavens; he does all that he pleases. Psalm 115:1-3

But the angel said to the women, “Do not be afraid, for I know that you seek Jesus who was crucified. He is not here, for he has risen, as he said. Come, and see the place where he lay. Then go quickly and tell his disciples that he has risen from the dead, and behold, he is going before you to Galilee; there you will see him. See, I have told you.” So they departed quickly from the tomb with fear and great joy, and ran to tell his disciples. Matthew 28:5-9

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!

Then from each black, accursed mouth
The cannon thundered in the South,
And with the sound
The carols drowned
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!

It was as if an earthquake rent
The hearth-stones of a continent,
And made forlorn
The households born
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.”

(full playlist)


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