My Peace I Give You

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.

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.

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.”

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!

This song imprinted itself on my mind in an unexpected way. I was visiting a remote town in western Myanmar in springtime and was at an Internet café. It was not a setting reminiscent of anything Yuletide.

I heard a commotion outside and walked to the doorway, where I saw a throng of angry people filling the street. They were carrying hate filled signs (some written in English) and protesting the existence of a nearby people group, the Rohingya. In anger, the people of the town had nine months earlier destroyed and pillaged the Rohingya’s property, leaving many dead and forcing the rest into refugee camps. As if that was not enough, they wouldn’t allow the Rohingyas freedom to leave the refugee camps, or even the country. This protest was yet another clamoring attempt for the world to take their side, to view the Rohingyas as animals and to let them die as such.

I could hardly bear to watch for more than a moment. I’d read about hate in history textbooks, but I’d never felt it fresh against my face as I did in seeing that protest. I turned my damp eyes back to my computer screen and suddenly heard Longfellow’s words in my ear:

“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.”

“Good will to men…” I thought. “Who is good but God?” These people, in embracing hatred, were rejecting not just good will to men, but God’s will for all men. It was a crushing situation to watch, to see the despair that humans so eagerly—even gleefully—bring upon one another.

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow originally penned the title “Christmas Bells” for this song, on Christmas day in 1863. He wrote these words in the face of much personal loss, and filled with sorrow as he watched America torn in two by the Civil War.

It does seem that peace is in short supply on this earth. But we who trust in Christ have been given a promise:

“Peace I leave with you. My peace I give you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.” (John 14:27)

If we were looking for the kind of immediate kingdom that Jesus’ disciples sought, we would despair that God hasn’t kept his promise to us. It would seem that he is silent, or unconcerned, but that is not true. God hasn’t fallen asleep (Ps. 121:4). Our inner ache for peace is yet another reminder that we are made in the image of a God of peace. And God has come to us, the perfect ambassador of peace, to quench violence (Is. 9:4-5). It’s not over yet—we’re still caught in the middle of this cosmic battle between good and evil.

But this season is the Christian’s reminder to live in hope, because we know a God who hears our cry for peace and has already answered it in Christ, the ultimate Good for all men.

“O Lord, you hear the desire of the afflicted;
You will strengthen their heart; you will incline your ear
To do justice to the fatherless and the oppressed,
So that man who is of the earth may terrify no more.” (Psalm 10:17-18)

~Breanna Randall



Burl Ives – I heard the Bells on Christmas Day

The Carpenters – I heard the Bells on Christmas Day

One thought on “My Peace I Give You

  1. Pingback: My Peace I Give You | Christians Anonymous

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