By: Dave Illingworth


I was driving across Oklahoma on my way back to California for Christmas when a Breaking News story came over the radio that fourteen innocent people had been killed and seventeen others injured by two terrorists at a Christmas party in San Bernardino, California. This after terrorist had murdered one hundred twenty nine and injured hundreds of innocent people in Paris several weeks earlier and after terrorists had blown up a Russian A321commercial aircraft killing another two hundred twenty four innocent people. In the middle-east families are fleeing Syria to avoid being bombed and gassed to death. Meanwhile, our leaders in America are refusing to do anything to control gun violence and help curb the epidemic of mass murders sweeping the country.


I changed to a radio station that was playing Christmas music and the song “I heard the bells on Christmas day” was playing. The lyrics are based on a poem written by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow and hit close to home. Longfellow laments, “And in despair I bowed my head. There is no peace on earth I said. Hate is strong and mocks the song of peace on earth, good-will to men!” Longfellow closes his poem with the ringing words, “God is not dead, nor doth He sleep. The wrong shall fail and the right prevail with peace on earth, good-will to men.”


Longfellow had lost his second wife, Francis, when she was burned alive in their home after her dress caught fire. Longfellow tried to save her and was badly burned. He was a strong anti-slavery advocate but also fervently wanted the bloodshed of the Civil war to end and the country to be reconciled and healed. Longfellow’s seventeen year-old son Charles had run way from home to join the Union Army. Charles was severely injured at the Battle of New Hope Church, Virginia when a bullet went through his shoulder a logged near his spine. At the time it was feared he would be paralyzed but he recovered. It was during this time on Christmas day of 1863 that Longfellow wrote the poem about the Christmas bells.


In 1872 it was put to music and is remains popular one hundred and fifty years later and is still being sung today in 2015. In the modern music version the two verses referring to the Civil war have been removed. The entire poem is below and the music version can be listened to by clicking on the link below.


I heard the bells of Christmas day
Their old, familiar carols play,
And wild and sweet
The words repeat
Of peace on earth, goodwill to men!

And though now, as day has come,
The belfries of all Christendom
Had rolled along
The unbroken song
Of peace on earth, goodwill 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, goodwill to men!

Then from each black, accursed mouth
The canon thundered in the South,
And with the sound
The carols drowned
Of peace on earth, goodwill to men!

It was as if an earthquake rent
The hearthstones of the continent,
And made forlorn
The household born
Of peace on earth, god-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, goodwill 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, goodwill to men!”


Music versions can be heard by clicking on the link below:

Luke2: 13-14 Suddenly, the angel was joined by a vast host of others- the armies of heaven-praising God and saying “ Glory to God in the highest and peace on earth goodwill to men.”