I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day
As we make our way through the Advent season, we come to the word "peace". In Hebrew, the word is "shalom". Many greetings and wishing of glad tidings come with the word "shalom". In the Old Testament, the word "shalom" has a variety of meanings, but primarily it refers to completeness. When a wall is complete with no holes or missing bricks it is said to be in "shalom". When relationships are healed there is a sense of "shalom" between the two parties.
This peace, or absence of war, must have been what Henry Wadsworth Longfellow was referring to in his famous poem turned into a song, "I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day". Longfellow was living in the midst of Civil War times. Battles were being fought in every corner of the eastern seaboard and Longfellow's son, Charles, longed to join the fighting. He was a skilled soldier and decided to join the Union army despite his father's displeasure. Henry wrote to a few of his influential friends in hopes that his son would be commissioned as an officer. Unfortunately, young Charles showed prowess as a soldier and was made a second lieutenant in Company G of the 1st Massachusetts Calvary. It wasn't long before Young Charles was badly wounded sustaining a shot through the left shoulder with the bullet exiting just behind the right shoulder blade missing the spinal cord by an inch. Henry would spend the next several months nursing his son back to health. The road would be long and would challenge Longfellow's resolve. He heard the bells of a nearby church and it caused him to draw pen and paper, writing of his hope in those wonderful words the Angels delivered to the shepherds the night Christ was born.
Longfellow wrote of the deep sorrow he must have felt after losing his second wife in a fire accident and his son being drawn into war and pain, "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 goodwill to men." He finishes the poem with strong words of faith, "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."
This peace on earth spoken by the heavenly host is the peace prophesied by the prophet Isaiah. There would be a rod, a shoot of Jesse, that would come and He would be called the "Prince of Peace." This peace giver is Jesus Christ, the one of old, foretold by the prophets from eternity past. He has come to bring peace to our hearts. To bring completeness to His Father's plan. He offers this "shalom" to us. We simply need to accept the gift. Today, if you are wrestling, fighting, warring within yourself or with life, look to the One whom the angels heralded, the one Longfellow says "is not dead" or isn't slumbering. He will bring you the peace your heart longs for.
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