The Songs of Christmas: Day 1

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I Heard The Bells 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

This is such a comfortable season – so much ritual, so much tradition, so much predictability… Regardless of what else goes on, someone will put up lights, all the stores will play the same handful of songs over and over until we’re in danger of losing our Christmas spirit before we even get to Thanksgiving, there will be trees and wreaths and gifts and dinners and celebrations and debates over the “reason for the season” and it will all come to culmination on one of the darkest days of winter.

I 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

But regardless of our disagreements, we do agree that the day is a high one – one worthy of being set aside in some way. The twenty-fifth of December marks a truce of sorts; a day where we all make a greater effort to get along, to lay aside our differences and celebrate the One who brings us together.

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

It’s not always a season of unmitigated joy, though – Longfellow wrote the song after his wife had died in an accidental fire and his son had been badly wounded in the Civil War (after joining the Union army without his father’s blessing or knowledge). Even today it often seems like hate and fear will overcome, like all the good that’s done is just drops in a bucket while despair rains down.

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

Even though Christmas celebrates the beginning of the story, or at least the beginning of us being a part of it, we have the benefit of knowing how the story ends – that regardless of what happens in the in-between, or how bleak things may appear, Light will overcome Darkness. And that gives us the courage to sing out praise and gratitude, even in the midst of the storm.

‘Til ringing singing on its way
the world revolved from night to day
a voice, a chime, a chant sublime
of peace on earth, goodwill to men.

Today’s story is by Sarah Jo Burch, and this is her favorite version of this song…


Sarah Jo BurchSarah Jo Burch lives in the South and is rediscovering her sense of adventure with her handsome and hardworking husband and two-under-three, and blogs (usually over a cup of tea) about faith, the everyday life of a wife and mum, loving her neighbors, gratitude, and knitting – with pictures between. You’ll find her at Paper-Bark Burch, posting between dishes and reading Fox in Socks for the eightieth time.

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