The Advent of Hope
On Christmas Day, 1863, American poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow penned the words to the Christmas Hymn, “I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day”. One stanza in particular captures how Longfellow was really feeling.
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!”
What emotion would elicit such disheartening lyrics?
In a word – hopelessness.
You see, Longfellow’s wife tragically died in an accident, leaving him a widowed father of 6 children. Only two years later, his oldest son, fighting in a terrible civil war that had brought havoc, wreckage, and destruction on the American people, was shot and nearly paralyzed in a skirmish. Longfellow, contemplating his pain, listened on Christmas day to the bells ringing throughout the city as people sang about “peace on earth”.
While all the world was rejoicing to the toll of the bells, Longfellow was haunted by all that he had lost.
Can you relate?
Does Christmas tend to feel like you are an impostor to the world’s celebration?
Does your heart feel hollow as the church sings it’s songs and carols?
It’s okay to name that.
Living in a world of brokenness and vulnerability means that – far too often – our courage fails us, and our hope is lost to the darkness.
But the coming of Jesus means that God is near, and is coming soon.
For all of our darkness, and all of our pain.
Christmas means that we have a Friend who sees us – weighed down by all our sin and suffering – and carries all of it with us, redeeming it for His glory and our good.
This world is filled with darkness – and that does feel overwhelming. But Jesus loves this world. He loves you. And so he came, and will come again. And He will make all things new.
And this is our great hope.
Longfellow believed this. And thus, the final words to his poem read like this:
Then rang 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.”
God isn’t dead. And he’s not sleeping.
May your heart take hope in this.
Merry Christmas, friends.