Peace on Earth

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Luke 2:8-14 

Glory in the Highest

8 Now there were in the same country shepherds living out in the fields, keeping watch over their flock by night. 9 And behold,[a] an angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were greatly afraid. 10 Then the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid, for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy which will be to all people. 11 For there is born to you this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. 12 And this will be the sign to you: You will find a Babe wrapped in swaddling cloths, lying in a manger.” 13 And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying:

14 “Glory to God in the highest,

And on earth peace, goodwill toward men”

As a child, I always loved the Christmas carol “I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day”. The lyrics come from a poem written by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow.

In 1863, Longfellow was a recently-widowed father of six children. His eldest son had nearly been paralyzed fighting for the Union in the Civil War, and Longfellow felt the heaviness of injustice all around him. He wrote this poem on Christmas Day:

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.”

Longfellow was dealing with grief, his country was at war and his son was badly injured. All this on top of the daily stress of raising six children on his own. But we see in this poem that he still longed for peace, and he still believed it could be found.

Sarah Bessey says “peace is what we are headed towards, what we believe in and what we practice.” Jesus left us with peace and he offers us peace — we just have to be willing to find it.

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